London and the Home Field Disadvantage

For American football fans based in the United Kingdom, the International Series has been a huge success.

In 2007, the Miami Dolphins hosted the New York Giants at Wembley Stadium in the first regular season game to be held outside of North America. By the end of this year, 26 of the 32 NFL franchises will have played in London – and the sport just keeps on growing in the UK and beyond. Will the English capital get its own franchise in the future? Only time will tell.

Giving up a home game isn’t ideal, especially for season ticket holders who end up missing out. Finding teams to volunteer to play in London has also been difficult in recent times, the Miami Dolphins and Los Angeles Rams have ended up playing as the home team twice since the beginning of the 2015 season. As of October 6, those sides are 0-3 in London games during that timeframe, with the Rams set to face the Arizona Cardinals later this month.

With the exception of the Jacksonville Jaguars, essentially London’s team these days, home sides have won just four of the 14 Wembley games. Fans don’t pay too much attention to who the designated side is and the opportunity to watch your favourite franchise doesn’t come along too often. Just imagine how many Green Bay Packers fans there would be in the stadium if Mike McCarthy’s men travelled as the visiting team?

London is a second home for Jacksonville and the Jaguars tend to perform well on British shores. With three consecutive wins at Wembley Stadium, the AFC South side have put together a run of form and winning helps to attract attention. At the end of the day, most fans relish success and Jacksonville will receive support on the other side of the Atlantic if they continue to shine in front of a sell-out, passionate London crowd.

You can’t knock British NFL fans for their commitment to the sport. In England’s recent clash with Slovenia, a World Cup qualifier that saw Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions side qualify for the 2018 tournament, there was a much smaller crowd than there was for Jacksonville’s win against the Baltimore Ravens last month. If the Jaguars continue to improve and Wembley turns into a fortress, Jacksonville should flourish as a franchise.

Twickenham Stadium will play host to the NFC West battle between the Rams and Cardinals later this month and it would take a brave man to back against Los Angeles on current form – even though home advantage could work against them. Sean McVay’s men are 3-1 for the year and NFL odds on bet365 show the Rams at 7/2 to win the division. A victory in London could spur the Rams on but Arizona’s larger following could prove detrimental.

Home advantage in the National Football League has, traditionally, been very important in the grand scheme of things. Lambeau Field, Gillette Stadium and CenturyLink Field are just three of American football’s most daunting stadia and travelling to these venues can be very difficult indeed. With London, it isn’t quite at that level just yet – it is more a celebration of the National Football League across the Atlantic.

AFI
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