History Of American Football

Whilst the rules may bemuse some, American Football now enjoys a massive international profile with the sport, not least the NFL Super Bowl, watched by almost 1billion people worldwide.

Even at its relative grass-roots college level, with crowds of more than 100,000 packing into Michigan Stadium on a regular basis whilst massive crowds are also seen at college games across the country.

The NFL's unpredictability is a major attraction for spread betting fans across the world with the term "Any Given Sunday" attached to the sport due to the frequency of surprise results. Only the Denver Broncos (1998 & 1999) and the New England Patriots (2004 & 2005) have won back-to-back championships since 1994.

The National Football League (NFL) can be traced back to 1869 when the first game of football was played at Princeton College. The sport was born out of rugby and has become one of the most popular sports in the USA, if not the most popular.

The NFL is made up of 32 teams from all over the United States who battle it out to win the Super Bowl at the end of the season. The league is split into two different conferences, the National Football Conference (NFC) and the American Football Conference (AFC).

Each conference has four leagues, North, South, East and West, and each team play 16 games during the opening 17 weeks of the season.

The top six teams in each conference play each other in the NFL Playoffs before the winning two teams contest the Super Bowl – one of the biggest betting events in world sport.

It wasn't until 1920 that the NFL was actually formed. It began as the American Professional Football Association before changing its name to its current incarnation in 1922.

One key factor of the NFL's history has been the regular changing of franchises from cities throughout the US. Many teams' names have changed, as well as moving to different cities and towns which have left fans disenchanted with the lack of heritage within their individual teams. For example, the Washington Redskins were previously known as the Boston Braves, but moved to Washington to attract bigger crowds and gate receipts. This was replicated in many smaller US towns as the franchises moved to the big cities for lucrative contracts that would make them richer and more competitive.

The NFL has been at the forefront of politics in the US, none more so than when black players were banned from playing in 1933. This was only resolved under JFK in the early 1960's when American Football had become many Americans' favourite sport, overtaking baseball for the first time. It was then that the game first started introducing new features such as clocks for fans to inform them of how long was left in each quarter, as well as names and numbers on the back of shirts.

It's these numbers on the back of players' shirts that has led to a dramatic rise in the popularity of spread betting on the modern game. Many punters like to bet on the total of the shirt numbers of all the touchdown scorers in a particular game. It is usually attacking players, like wide receivers, who have the biggest numbers on their backs and make the most difference to a shirt totals.

Before the NFL, it had been college football that really stirred the American imagination, but the professional game had overtaken it by the 1960's. However, internal wrangling in the NFL led to one of the sport's leading promoters, Lamar Hunt, setting up the American Football League (AFL) in 1960.

The AFL was widely regarded as being more dynamic and experimental than its rival league. The AFL recognised the depth of talent within 'black' colleges and went about recruiting students to fill high-profile positions such as quarter back, wide receiver and line back – something which was unheard of within the NFL at the time.

Many of the top players from the modern game, such as Jerry Rice and Emmett Smith, may never have played in the top league if it wasn't for Hunt and his cohorts.

It was not until 1970 that the two leagues finally agreed to merge after years of conflict. It was agreed that the Super Bowl – the winners of the NFL and AFL leagues – would be the crucial game of the season, with the winner effectively becoming the world champions of American Football.

The Green Bay Packers won the first two Super Bowls in 1967 and 1968 and remain the most successful team in NFL history, with 12 league championships.

Once the politics had been resolved, the league prospered massively during the next two decades and became the USA's favourite sport. Punters had always bet in their droves on college football, but the new found quality and equality of the NFL after the civil rights movement meant that more people wanted to bet on their favourite teams and players.

To this day, the Super Bowl is one of the biggest worldwide spread betting events and sees many people staying up all night betting on anything from the next touchdown scorer to the total spread of points for an individual team.

One of the most important factors in improving the game was the advent of live television games and in particular, Monday night football. This led to huge nationwide ratings as people could watch the top games from around the country. Spread betting on American Football also benefited from this greater accessibility as punters could place their bets and sit back in the comfort of their own homes.

Television companies battled for the rights to these huge audiences and to this day they remain some of the most expensive contracts in television anywhere in the world.

The NFL has secured its position as one of the most sustainable and important leagues anywhere in world sports, particularly with the golden hen that is the Super Bowl. The Monday after the Super Bowl has become a national holiday for many and advertisers all over the world scramble to get their adverts screened during Super Bowl coverage.

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