A Demographic Look at the NFL’s Present and Future
There are 382 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) in the United States. MSAs, more accurately than city populations, indicate the number of people who live in a given dense urban area. For example, the New York MSA encompasses portions of New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Though the population of New York City is just over 8 million, it happens to have the nation’s largest MSA, with a population of 20.2 million (2016 estimate).
I’ve taken a look at the 32 NFL MSAs, broken down by NFL divisions. My queries, in this four-part series include: how the fan base breakdowns are spread around among the NFL’s eight four-team divisions (part 1); how Green Bay’s population base compares to others (part 2); which cities are most likely to gain or lose an NFL team (part 3); and whether the size of a sports team’s fan base is a critical factor in a team’s success on the field (part 4).
As we all know, the Green Bay Packers have a unique fan base and history, such that little of the information in this series is highly relevant to Green Bay and it’s unique history – but it is hopefully interesting nonetheless.
The charts below include the country’s MSA rankings (based on population size), the population in millions, and the percentage of increase or decrease in population from 2010 to 2016.
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Division-wise, The NFC East has the most impressive fan base (based on the team’s MSA), with all four of its teams based in the top seven largest MSAs. The least impressive division is probably the AFC South, with only one MSA among the top 33.
Another divisions with weak demographics is the AFC North, with no teams located in the top 20 MSAs. The NFC South is also lacking as to this demographic, but the future bodes well there, as all four of its metro areas are rapidly growing. The AFC North, which has locations mostly in what is often termed the Rust Belt, includes two MSAs with shrinking populations and no MSAs near the average growth rate, which is about 6.2 percent.
As for MSAs with exploding populations, the AFC South (10.5 percent average), the NFC South (9.2), and the NFC West (8.3) are all experiencing rapid growth. It comes as no surprise that the big growth areas in the country are the the south and west. The top growth MSAs with NFL teams are Dallas (12.6) and Denver (12.2).
Other than Green Bay, the NFC North teams are located in large urban areas. The growth rates of all four of these locales, however, lag when compared to the rest of the nation.
No other division can match the history of the NFC North teams. Counting their NFL predecessors, the Bears joined the league in 1920, Packers in 1921, Lions in 1930, and Vikings in 1961.
By comparison (and counting their NFL and AFL predecessors) the oldest and newest teams in the other divisions are:
NFC East: Giants in 1925 and Cowboys in 1960
NFC South: Falcons in 1966 and Panthers in 1995
NFC West: Cardinals in 1920 and Seahawks in 1976
AFC East: Jets, Bills and Patriots in 1960, and Dolphins in 1966
AFC North: Steelers in 1933 and Ravens in 1996
AFC South: Colts in 1953 and Texans in 2002
AFC West: Broncos, Chiefs, Chargers, and Raiders all joined in 1960
This should be enough for readers to digest for now.