Harry Kane, The Tottenham and England striker, is the latest ambassador for the London NFL Academy.
I’ve written previously about the academy’s ambassadors and compared to the NFL stars mentioned Kane may seem a strange choice. But there’s numerous reasons why his addition makes a lot of sense. You can see Kane’s announcement tweet below.
“I’m a huge fan of the NFL and have been following it for a while.”
Kane seems to be a genuine NFL fan who knows the game he’s promoting. This has not always been the case with those ‘stars’ being trotted out by NFLUK to promote the game. A fan of the New England Patriots, he’s posted multiple times about the matches he’s attended including the Super
Bowl. It would be great to see him more involved in the social side of the sport through Twitter etc. but having someone who takes interest is a definite plus.
Obviously having all pro NFL stars like Odell Beckham Jr and Ju-Ju is huge but the reality is that they are going to have limited availability at best for half the year. Kane is based in London and so will be available to the coaches and staff to draw on more frequently.
Moreover, his football team will play in the first purpose built NFL Stadium outside of America where I’d expect the Academy to play any marquee games they have. This would allow Kane to be on hand easily.
Alistair Kirkwood, the NFL UK managing director, hinted at the role the striker will play when he said,
“Harry’s achievements can serve as an inspiration to our students and his strong connection to the local area, along with his well-known love of the NFL, makes him a meaningful and credible participant in the academy.”
Having one of the Premiership’s marquee English players will provide a role model that can speak about the benefits of nutrition, seep etc. He’ll also be able to offer advice on what it takes to deal with the media as there’s likely to be speculation about the success/failure of the programme from both international and UK media given the nature of the NFL’s undertaking.
The NFL is a business and has to consider the financial implications of their ambassador choice. Having Kane on speed dial allows the NFL to promote the Academy year round. The appearance of Kane there, much like other sports stars visiting youth sports clubs, generates media interest. With American football still very much a minority sport in the UK generating constant media attention helps keep them relevant and may attract athletes with other sporting backgrounds in future years.
Finally, Kane provides a current British professional sportsman for the players to look up to. Not everyone that’s hoping to be part of the academy is an NFL fan. Around 30% of those attending the tryouts had no American Football experience, including Wales U18s prop Harry Olding. For these players it’s useful to have a mentor they know.
Jay Ajayi, also an ambassador for the NFL Academy moved to Maryland, USA in 2000 aged 7 and so will not have the same cultural references as an English player like Kane. The same is true for London-born Osi Umenyiora and his partner on BBC’s NFL coverage, Jason Bell, who are both Americans who retired long before the first intake for the Academy.
Some skeptical NFL fans dislike the appointment Kane as the latest ambassador for the London NFL Academy. I see the move, by and large, as a positive. How much he’s able to truly impact the development of these athletes remains to be seen. One thing’s for sure, it’ll be an interesting watching the academy’s progress.