NFL in Europe: The view from London

Buccaneers cheerleaders perform at Wembley Stadium today.

At first glance it looked a bit like Glastonbury, the well-known British music festival. Hundreds of people lined up, wearing team jerseys and are making a lot of noise. Those already inside the gates were drinking, partying and buying merchandise.

Similarities aside, it couldn’t have been further away from being Glastonbury Festival. It was the tailgate party before yesterday’s game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Chicago Bears – the fifth time the National Football League has come to Wembley Stadium in London. A match made in heaven, as they say over there.

“This is our third time here. We are fans of Green Bay Packers, but we just love that NFL is here in London, so we keep coming back,” said Stephen Kilbey, who came with his father.

“The tickets were 140 pounds each, but that’ll get us good seats for the game,” father Guy Kilbey said. “If more games are placed in London, however, we’ll have to get cheaper seats, or we’ll go bankrupt. But we will see those games.”

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, has opened the door for more regular season games to be played in Europe. And if number of partygoers at the tailgate party is anything to go by, the thirst for NFL is large there.

Outside Wembley Stadium, at the back of the tailgate area, the organizers put up a large stand that was flooded with spectators — not all of whom had tickets for the game. Young, old and in between, Londoners came to feel the rush.

That’s a telltale sign the American sport has become British mainstream. A kind of new national favorite pastime – at least for the week.


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