NFL in London: UK’s Passionate American Football Fans Deserve Better

It is clear that London and the UK has the appetite for American football

-London, England

Tens of thousands descended on Regent Street for the NFL’s annual street party and almost 84,000 fans packed into Wembley to see the ninth game of the International Series between the Oakland Raiders and the Miami Dolphins. The next two games, in October and November, should also bring in more than 80,000 fans.

But unfortunately for those working hard behind the scenes to put on a spectacular show worthy of the glitz and glamour on the NFL, the players have again failed to live up to their part of the bargain.

On Sunday night the fans at Wembley saw another blowout. Of the nine International games so far seen at the national stadium since 2007, just three of them have been truly exciting.

The San Diego Chargers and New Orleans Saints were involved in a shootout in 2008, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers almost managed an epic fourth quarter comeback in 2011 and the Pittsburgh Steelers and Minnesota Vikings went back and forth in the first of two games last year.

But the rest of the games, bar the first game between the Dolphins and the New York Giants which was ruined by horrendous weather, have been completely one sided.

At Wembley over the weekend fans began to leave as early as midway through the third quarter. By the beginning of the fourth quarter that trickle had turned into a stream and the stadium was at least half empty long before the whistle blew.


The die-hard NFL fans will keep coming back, but if the NFL eventually want London to have a permanent franchise the games must be enticing enough to draw in those that have a passing or growing interest in the game.

A pre-game performance from Def Leppard as well as a number of Oakland and Miami fans in the crowd had the atmosphere ahead of kick-off at a raucous level. It only grew when Oakland scored a touchdown on their first drive, but the Dolphins took over after that and the game was finished.

We shouldn’t have been surprised, Oakland have not posted a winning season since 2002, when they reached the Super Bowl.

The Jacksonville Jaguars are the team most likely to become a London-based franchise, but if the NFL are expecting British fans to convert they may be mistaken. Simply put, the Jaguars are an awful team who have won just 11 of their last 52 matches in the league and have not reached the play-offs since 2007.

Many British fans have been following the league since the 1980s, some before, and are dedicated to their chosen teams – they may be tempted to one, two or even three matches per season, but eight per year is going to be a stretch for a losing team they don’t support.

Moreover, plenty of the fans who watch the games at Wembley are not Londoners – perhaps even a majority. Listen on to the voices on Wembley Way and one will hear British accents from north, south, east and west, from England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. Again, visiting the capital – with train and hotel fare, plus tickets – may be realistic three times a year, but when that number becomes eight home matches, it’s going to be tough to justify.

NFL International Series Miami Dolphins @ Oakland Raiders Wembley Stadium London UK

Talking to NFL players about the prospect about setting up a semi-permanent home and you get a mixed response, some would be excited to live in a foreign country, but others are not keen to leave their families, friends and familiar surroundings; would a London team be able to attract the best draftees and free agents?

Teams and players are used to long distances for games (the US is 3,000 miles wide after all) but while the UK and US are pretty close in culture, there are significant differences.

Games such as the one between Oakland and Miami dampen enthusiasm among the more mild fans for a permanent team.

The next fixture sees the Detroit Lions and the Atlanta Falcons come to Wembley; these two have an excellent chance of making the play-offs this year and boast some of the NFL’s most explosive playmakers.

Let’s hope the Wembley crowd gets a game it deserves.

Source: The Standard UK

Sports hack at The Independent, after moving on a free transfer from MailOnline. Football/NBA/NFL.