The NFL in London - shattering the myth
Today the NFL plays its second regular season game at Wembley Stadium as the Saints and Chargers do battle in London, England. Time to dispel some of the myths about the following for the game across the pond.
But the Brits know nothing about American Football
Back in the early 1980s yes. Not now. The NFL has been a huge success in the UK since the first American Bowl pre-season game in 1986 and tickets for this game sold out in hours. Wembley holds 87,000 fans - they could have sold 250,000 tickets for this one.
But soccer is king in Europe
Yes it is and probably always will be. But there is a market for the NFL in Europe and shirts sold outside of the United States bring as much revenue into the NFL as those sold in it. Viewing figures for NFL games on Sky Sports are higher than ever before and British fans get four live games a week.
But I don't want my team to lose a home game
This is a good point. When the Lightning gave up a home game to play the Rangers in Prague earlier this month, no-one really complained because they had 40 other home games to go to. For the Bucs, losing a game to Europe would only leave seven others. All the more reason to go to an 18-game regular season and lose two pre-season encounters.
But there won't be any Chargers or Saints fans at the game
There wil be some but not many. What there will be though are fans of every NFL team. The 300+ members of the Bucs UK booster club will be there in their pewter and red, together with fans of the Dolphins, Redskins, Cowboys and others. And people who play in the British gridirion league will wear their playing shirts too. This is a celebration of the NFL irrespective of who is actually playing.
But again, the Brits don't understand the game
Wrong, 100% wrong. Pretty much everyone there at Wembley will know what a zone blitz is, what flooding a zone mean, why an ineliglble receiver needs to report, and why a draw play on 3rd & 20 from your own 10-yard line is sometimes a conservative but right call. If you wanted to find a Brit in the street who knew nothing about gridiron, of course you could find one. But not at Wembley, not tonight.
So will there be an NFL franchise in London?
No, that will never happen. The travel logistics make even one game like this difficult and hence both teams have their bye week after this trip. Regular season games to London, and potentially Germany and Japan will follow, but that is the extent of the NFL's ambitions in this respect.
So you'll be telling me next that a Brit writes about the NFL for TBO.com, commentates for 1010 Sports and writes a feature on franchise history in the Buccaneers Review magazine each game day?
Funny you should say that ....
Paul Stewart, TBO.com, 26 October 2008