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College Football Turnout Proves Australia is Ready for NFL

On a sunny Saturday afternoon in Sydney, Australia, ANZ Stadium pulled a crowd of over 60,000 to ring in the start of the college football season. The game – a 51-31 blowout win for Cal over Hawai’i – often played second fiddle to the electricity and enthusiasm of a large, untapped fanbase thrilled for some live football.

The successful event should intrigue the NFL, which is always open to new avenues of international expansion. Take it from this Aussie fan who attended the game: the vast majority of people there were not college football fans, but rather NFL fans, happy to watch American football in any form.

All 32 teams were represented in varying degrees by a crowd only too excited to make their pro football affiliations known.

“Obviously [the NFL is] paying attention to this,” Hawai’i athletic director David Matlin told the Sydney media. “I think [bringing a game here] is a possibility. I think you have the facilities and the sports enthusiasts, so it’s a real good place for sporting events.”

The NFL has been forthright its attempts to grow the game in England, with the 2016 season featuring three games in London. Another game this year will take place in Mexico City, while the league continues to pursue future contests in China, Germany and Brazil.

Longtime detractors to the idea of playing a game down under have cited travel distance, time zone difference and a comparatively small population as reasons for not making the leap.

The atmosphere both inside and outside the stadium was surreal, and an absolute joy to partake in. But more than that, the healthy crowd should be proof enough that the NFL will more than get its money’s worth for bringing a game down.

If it can feature some combination of Australia’s best-supported teams – including the Packers, Patriots, Seahawks, Steelers or 49ers – so much the better. But none of those franchises seem like the type to wave off the prospect of losing one home game, so the logistics aren’t all there yet. Time will tell if the owners deem the financial payoff worth it in the coming seasons.

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