The NFL like to do things in style so they chose a damp, dreary winter’s afternoon to announce the teams who will be coming over this year to showcase their International Series. The majestic new stadium that envelopes the century old White Hart Lane Stadium was a fitting backdrop for the announcement.
Most UK fans would have been frustrated to find out there would only be three games played in London in 2018. The disappointment of apparently losing a game was explained by the NFL’s Executive Vice-President of Events and International Mark Waller. After he acknowledged the NFL was excited by the partnerships they were building in the UK, he explained that since the NFL would be using White Hart Lane as a venue for the first time, they have to ensure the experience for the fans would be a brilliant one.
“We also want to make sure that we get maximum learning out of the stadium the first time we play there,” Waller acknowledged before adding, “Daniel felt very strongly in this first experience we need to get it right and that we need to learn.” A reference to Daniel Levy the chairman of Tottenham, who was in attendance with Martin Glenn chief executive of the FA.
Joking that he wasn’t really thinking straight when he approached the NFL about putting the two sports together, Levy was enthusiastic about the venture. “It’s very exciting,” he said, “we’ve created something very unique although we still have six or seven months of really hard work of construction ahead of us. This stadium is going to be one of the best in the world and I’m going to make the NFL very proud.”
The intentions of the Tottenham chairman is obvious. After acknowledging that investing in the stadium required a long term vision and if an NFL franchise does land in London, he would like White Hart Lane to be part of that.
Probably because of the delay in announcing which teams would be coming over, there had been a lot of rumour and fake news on social media leading up to the announcement and there was joy and disappointment when the teams helmets were brought from behind the plinth and put on display assigning the teams to the dates.
The good news revolved around the three new teams making the journey. The Seattle Seahawks, Philadelphia Eagles and the Tennessee Titans will be enjoying the experience for the first time. While the Jacksonville Jaguars, Oakland Raiders and Los Angeles Chargers will be returning. The games will be played over three consecutive weekends starting October 14, but that might prove impractical for UK fans that travel long distances.
With this innovation, the NFL is again testing the water to see if a London franchise could sustain such an arrangement. It has been suggested a London franchise might play several successive games at home before the same arrangement in the USA in order to cut down on travelling costs and the disruption that goes with the time zone changes.
The last words on this year’s International Series should come from the NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell who confirmed the NFL’s resolve in playing games in London.
“We continue to be very excited by the growth of the NFL in the UK. The fans have demonstrated outstanding support and passion for the NFL over the past eleven seasons and we look forward to some great games in London this year. A key feature of our success is playing in iconic, world-renowned venues like Wembley and Twickenham, and we look forward to playing in what will be another incredible setting for NFL football at Tottenham’s new stadium.”
UK fans can moan and complain about this or that team not coming over, but they should be feeling pleased that although there are other countries interested in hosting our sport, it is always London the NFL support and bring their teams to.