Frenchman Thomas DePaepe on “The NFL in Wembley!”

My answer was pretty easy, “He wants to be part of an NFL event.”

AP in London

From Contributor Thomas DePaepe:

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he NFL in Wembley has been a huge success this year… as everyone was expecting it to be. Indeed it was the seventh time the NFL was fly to Wembley for an “International Series Game” and as usual the London stadium was full of fans screaming their pleasure to see the NFL in person for real! I will not write about the game itself (the Vikings won, and the Steelers are now 0-4, although it was a nice game with a lot of suspense), but about the atmosphere in Wembley arena.

After getting to the stadium by the subway or’ tube’, you arrive in front of Wembley Stadium and the first word which comes in mind is “HUGE!”.

go-vikes1Huge crowd, Huge atmosphere, Huge stadium, Huge moment!

I had been lucky in the past, as this was my fourth NFL game. This year, I think fans were more involved in the game than in years past. Maybe it’s because the NFL fan base is growing in England and Europe. Maybe it’s because both teams have die-hard fans willing to travel or land and ocean. Or maybe it’s because NFL is starting to be more popular in Europe (ESPN has made a strong impact with its ESPN America channel for the last 3 years, although now they have close it and European fans are furious). Whatever the reason, it is clear the attendance was huge and wholly dedicated to NFL. If you don’t trust me, think about lines in front of the NFL Shop where fans had to wait more than half an hour before getting in front of a cashier to buy a jersey.

It was not only HUGE because of the 83,518 fans, it was because fans from all over the world came to show their colors in a friendly atmosphere you can hardly imagine elsewhere. When you attend to an NFL game in the states, you see only the home teams colors, teams playing in Wembley see the whole NFL’s jerseys on display in the same place. Of course, there were a lot of Vikings fans and members of the Steeler Nation (less than I expected), but I  saw two Cleveland Browns fans, a few guys wearing “cheeseheads”, a “Mardi Gras” tribe, Dallas Cowboys, and Texans jerseys.

For a french guy like me it was  a little hard to believe. Rivalries are fierce in Europe’s top sport (soccer) and you can hardly imagine a guy wearing a PSG jersey taking a seat next to a Olympique de Marseille fan on the subway. If both are in the same place, at best they will taunt each other and at worst words will be said and possibly fists thrown.

But it’s seems to be hard to believe even for the American journalist I met who asked me, “Isn’t it strange to see a Packers fan here? Why does he make his way to Wembley if his team isn’t playing at Wembley this year?” My answer was pretty easy, “He wants to be part of an NFL event.” This might not make any sense to an American fan, but that fan can go to see a game at a NFL stadium pretty easily.


The NFL, to a European fan like me, is a trademark we can normally only see on TV (but not live since the ESPN America channel had shut down this summer) or computer screen, and if we want to see it live we have only two choice: going to London or flying to USA. Flying to the US  is far more expensive and harder to organize. This is why this game (like the six before and the Jacksonville Jaguars vs San Francisco 49ers on October 27th) is huge for us Europeans. Roger Goodell has offered us, the European NFL fan, the opportunity for to be a part of the NFL experience in person… and we whole-heartedly cheer this opportunity.

After the game, not only was everyone was speaking about the game, but also about how they were getting back to London for the Jaguars vs 49ers. Looking for another opportunity to grab another small piece of the “Greatest Show on Turf.” All the fans also has another important question in a back of their minds: “When will NFL give a franchise team to London?” A couple of years ago, the question may have been, “Is there a possibility of an NFL team outside of the USA?” Now the question seems to only be “WHEN!?”

European fans have proved they deserve it and are ready for “Real Football”!

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John McKeon is a former professional and collegiate American Football player and coach now living and working in New York. His goal is to spread news, information, and opinion on the global growth of the sport he loves.