Overnight American football fans crammed into London’s sports bars and pubs to watch the NFL Super Bowl, the biggest annual American football championship.

Ten years ago, the National Football League, known as the NFL, staged its first international series at London’s Wembley Stadium.

The sports’ popularity in the capital has since soared, and there are now ten university teams in and around London, as well as three premiership teams.

Tony Allen is a former American football player, and has worked for the NFL for 14 years as head of its international programme.

In this role he works to bring players from outside the United States to American high schools and colleges, with the aim of progressing to the NFL.

He says: “It [American football] started in London around 1983. It’s had its highs and lows.

In the early days when the NFL was first being shown we had this huge surge of people that took up the sport, and then it kind of died out in the nineties.

“It’s just picked up again in the last ten years.”

The NFL’s aim to expand its international presence has resulted in the new Tottenham Hotspurs stadium, set to open in 2018, being constructed with the first purpose-built American football stadium outside the United States.

The new stadium will feature a retractable glass surface with an American football pitch.

The NFL has already agreed a deal with Tottenham Hotspurs to play two games per year at the new venue from next year.

Rumours of an NFL franchise in London have been rife since the expansion announcement. Alistair Kirkwood, NFL UK’s Managing Director, says a franchise could build a “broader fanbase” and labels the prospect a “game-changer”.

James Cherry is a player on the London Warriors men’s team, and also coaches the women’s team.

He says that despite the number of women playing both flag football (the non-contact version), and kitted football (the contact version) soaring, many others in London don’t know about the sport.

He says: “Women’s football in general is quite a new sport. It’s only been around in an organised way for about five years, and I’ve seen it grow exponentially.”

The sport is often compared to rugby, but James believes it’s more tactical and closer related to basketball than any other sport.

“You get all the physicality of rugby, but you get all the tactics of basketball. Basketball’s a very tactical sport, you have to run plays, you’re moving quickly – there’s a lot to learn in it,” he says.

Lucie Stewart, originally from Edinburgh, moved to London to begin her city career working at Procter and Gamble.Two and a half years ago she was a novice; now she’s captain of the London Warriors women’s team, and plays for both Great Britain’s flag football and contact teams.

“If you look around the team today, you’ll find women who are tall, slim, short, broad. It doesn’t matter what shape or size you are, there’s a position for you.

“The great thing about American football versus all other sports is that teams just don’t want girls of all shapes and sizes, they require them to be successful,” she says.

According to the British Association of American Football, participation by women is up 80 per cent year on year, making it one of the fastest growing sports in the UK.