Having never been to an NFL game in London myself, I found someone who has been to just about every one that's been played over here. Toby was a teammate of mine last year and is a huge NFL fan. He was an NTU Renegade when we got to train with the Jacksonville Jaguars a couple years ago so he is very versed in the growth of the game on this side of the pond.
Like my rugby vs American football piece I sent him these questions and he was nice enough to help out. Because I was rushing him, he had to do his responses on his phone so I've made a few clerical corrections.
How many games have you been to in London?
8 I think!
What's your most memorable game there?
Buffalo @ Jacksonville in 2015 for me, most people will say Detroit- Atlanta because of the last second retaken FG. but I missed that. Bills Jags was a high scoring game that had it all, the early lead, the sudden implosion and a great 2 minute drill from the Jags. The atmosphere was the best yet because the Bills fans were wild, and it was nice to see [the] Jags win a game for a change!
What's the atmosphere like?
Normally the atmosphere, I find, is very subdued. Fans generally go just for the experience as opposed to the teams playing. Because there's no real dominant team unless one of the big 4/5 are playing (which is rare in itself) the fans are very diverse, causing a very laid back, armchair viewer atmosphere, no fan passion. Also, part of the reason the Bills game was so good.
Are most of the fans there cheering for one team or are they general American football fans?
It's the only place in the world you can go to a game and count every shirt in the respective league. You can't go to an Arsenal v Newcastle game and count the other 18 shirts from the respective teams in the league!
Have you been to any of the festivities surrounding the event? What are they like?
The festivities around are very family based. I went to them once or twice, but it really aims for the first time NFL viewer, and lacks substance in my opinion. Not to mention saturated with fans causing terrible crowding in these areas, and queue times are a bit long. I'm happy with my pre game pub routine and some food outside the station. Author's note: If a person from England says the queues (lines) are long, they are LONG. They're experts on lining up for things over here.
They've increased the number of games to 3 per year. How many games do you think should be played in London every season?
I think 3 should be the upper echelon, quality over quantity for me. 2, I believe, is the perfect number however, and 1 isn't enough. But I would increase the quality of the teams/ matchup over quantity of games.
Would you support a team in London or would you stick with your current team?
I would stick with my current team, however I would own a season ticket if it occurred, just for the football. But on the subject, I'm not interested in a team coming to the UK. I believe it is a very poor decision if the NFL were to do so.
Which London stadium do you think is best suited for NFL games?
Right now, Wembley over Twick, but after the Giants/ Rams game, that opinion could change. However, I'm very excited for Tottenham's new ground. I believe that will prove the best ground atmosphere wise/ viewing wise.
You had the chance to train with the Jaguars staff with your uni team. How do those programs influence fans of the game in the UK?
Having the chance to do the Jags training day was incredible. I was injured at the time so I took a lot in from watching, but for me I actually enjoyed watching them train over us training with the coaching staff. Watching a live session was incredible, and it really helped me learn more than the training ourselves, but had I not been injured at the time, that could have been totally different! Who knows!!!
If you were the Prime Minister of American football in the UK, what would you change?
I would commit to bringing in more scholars at university level to grow the game publicly and implement the game in upper schools. That is the only way we can have a chance to bring players up such as Moritz Böhringer from outside the states. Most people don't get the chance to play until they are [at] uni, which is far too late.
Wrapping it up
Big thanks to Toby for helping out! He's a good lad and it's great to know diehard NFL fans are all over the place. I'm going to try to make it to the Redskins game this year in London. I'm curious to see who else is going to attend If you're going to the game in London this year or have been to games over here in the past, please share your stories in the comments below.
Also, I'm getting married next week so I won't have another article up until around the first pre season game. See you all then!