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Forget the Superbowl: London is fast becoming a hub for the razzle-dazzle of America’s National Football League (NFL).
The league has held regular International Series games at Wembley Stadium since 2007. This year, it has made the historic decision to hold three games on London soil for the first time, in a move that some have speculated will lead towards a permanent London NFL franchise.
The Oakland Raiders will play the Miami Dolphins on September 28, the Atlanta Falcons take on the Detroit Lions on October 26 and the Jacksonville Jaguars (dubbed ‘London’s team’) will battle the Dallas Cowboys on November 9.
As tickets have just gone on sale, so here are five reasons to watch the NFL in London this year.
Watch a Real Show
American football games are much more than just sport: they are theatrical shows. We’re talking smoke machines, bursts of fire, mascots, songs and fierce cheering, as the audience is encouraged to go into a frenzy of excitement. And of course, most teams have their own professional cheerleaders, who perform slick routines to cheer the players on.
Hang Out at Fan Events
The NFL is about much more than the three-hour games. Fan rallies and events take place all over London around each fixture and capture the spirit of the NFL in a celebratory environment. Last year, Regent Street was closed to traffic for an ‘All American Block Party’ including live music, mascots, NFL sporting challenges, American-inspired food, cheerleaders and player appearances. News of this year’s fan events will be revealed nearer to the game dates.
Learn the Rule Book
American Football (known as football in the US) evolved from two British sports: football and rugby. While there are still some similarities, the American game has its own quirks and rules which are an interesting evolution of the earlier games. Learning the scoring system and phrases like “touch down” and “the fumble” will make you seem frightfully knowledgeable to your friends at the game. Try the NFL’s beginner’s guide to football to learn.
See the ‘London’ NFL Team
London almost has its own NFL team. The Jacksonville Janguars (based in Florida) are playing four home games at Wembley between 2013 and 2016, and hope to win UK fans. They are owned by Shahid Khan, the owner of Fulham Football club. Teams that challange them at Wembley are nicknamed ‘America’s team’ in what becomes a cross-Atlantic patriotic battle. Catch them at the November 9 game.
Arrive Early For a Party
Traditionally, a ‘tailgate’ party takes place in the hours before NFL games in the US. Held in the sporting venue’s car park, the tailgate usually involves fans holding barbeques, sharing food and supporting their team. London puts its own twist on the tailgate. You can expect something similar to last year’s setup, which took over Wembley’s car park. Those with tickets to the game could explore NFL exhibits, food and merchandise stalls, have their photos taken with trophies and play mini sports activities.