As the world’s most popular sport, football has long been a safe haven for fans to see the game at home in the U.S. and Europe, where viewership numbers have been growing.
But that may soon change.
The NFL is launching an initiative to offer a Winter Olympics-style meet-up experience at stadiums across the country, with the league saying it will use the Winter Sports Games to grow its global appeal.
The idea comes as the NFL and the league’s partner, NBC, are partnering on a slate of events aimed at expanding the sport.
The first event, scheduled for next year, will be the Winter Games in Russia.
The NFL has been working on the initiative for a few years, but the idea is gaining traction now, said Jeff Pash, the league senior vice president of global marketing and communications.
It will be a major opportunity to show that football is growing internationally, and the fans are excited about it, he said.
The league is looking to expand the Winter sports event beyond just the Winter games to include the Olympics and the Paralympics, which are expected to be held in 2020 and 2022 respectively.
Pash said the idea for a Winter Games-style event is to have it be a “major opportunity” for the league to reach out to fans.
It will be an opportunity to demonstrate to people that football has been around for a long time and to demonstrate the league is still relevant in a very diverse global market,” he said, adding that the league will also offer an exclusive event to fans to promote the Olympics, which could include a meet-and-greet with the NFL players or a pregame ceremony.
While many fans in the United States and Europe will be able to watch the games live, there will be no access to live game footage, according to Pash.
In fact, NBC Sports will not be able provide replays for any games.
The first Winter Olympics are scheduled to take place in 2020 in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
The games will be played in a city that is home to a large Asian population, including the Chinese city of Beijing, which hosts the 2020 Winter Games.
The 2018 Winter Games will be held from February 8 to March 4 in Pune, India.
In 2020, the 2018 Winter Olympics will be hosted in Sochi, Russia.
In 2017, the NFL partnered with NBC to develop a slate for the Winter Olympic Games.
That slate includes games in Beijing, London, and Munich.