NFL

NFL London - just the beginning?

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England’s only World Cup winners would never have foreseen NFL legends Tom Brady, Colin Kaepernick, and Eli Manning gracing the home of football, but it looks like London is set for an Atlantic invasion.

Pigskins, NFL jerseys and football helmets are all regulars on children's Christmas lists. Only children in America you say?

Have you not heard?

It isn’t just Chelsea and Arsenal kits that sports fans are craving, NFL is hot on the lips of all across England, with London the target for a full scale attack from America’s finest sport.

NFL could be coming to town every fortnight

It now seems it will only be a matter of time before London is confirmed as the first region outside of the United States to have its own American Football franchise.

Where is this new franchise going to play people have asked? But Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur already seem to have solved that problem, with the proposal of a ground share with the new NFL franchise, once the North London side complete the build of a hotly anticipated new multi-purpose stadium.

If people thought the idea of London owning their own American football franchise was absurd, or even that the possibility of a regular-season game coming to the capital was unlikely, there has been speculation surrounding NFL’s pinnacle game being hosted at Wembley in the near future.

Yes, the Superbowl, one of America’s iconic dates in the calendar, is to potentially take place in London.

Absurd… or is it?

True, the early stages of NFL London remained a sole annual game spectacular, however 2013 saw an historic announcement - the International Series was to return to London twice. The Minnesota Vikings were first to make Wembley their home ground, successfully defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers 34-27.

Four weeks later it was the Jacksonville Jaguars' turn to make Wembley their own fortress, but unfortunately they couldn’t follow in the footsteps of the Vikings, convincingly thrashed by the San Francisco 49ers 42-10, in doing so, concluding game seven of the international series, unimaginable seven years on from its distant pilot.

If the commitment of two NFL games a year didn’t send shockwaves through London, then the games vigilantes better be prepared for 2014.

Next year will see American Football break more records after it was announced hours after the 49ers crushing victory that 2014 would see an unprecedented six teams compete at Wembley Stadium.

The popularity of the International Series has been unimaginable, only the Dallas Cowboys' average attendance was greater than Wembley Stadium's across the two fixtures this winter.

A phenomenal statement, considering NFL is an American sport. Evidence, if there needed to be more, American Football is here to stay.

A certain iconic sporting quote comes to mind when the NFL festival floods the London streets; “It’s not just a game, it’s a way of life.”

The fleets of Americans that are prepared to jet thousands of miles, just to watch their sport take place in London illustrates the NFL isn’t just a sport. Like football to the British, it is a religion.

And fans are rewarded with such dedication and support; they aren’t just flying in for a three-hour whirlwind of football, the NFL festival starts long before the Sunday kick off.

The NFL London experience is one to marvel at, it isn’t just your usual match day process; prior to the fixture between the Steelers and the Vikings, half a million people invaded Regent Street as part of the NFL parade, where they were given the opportunity to meet the stars of the game, lift the famous Vince Lombardi trophy, take part in mini games, pop up stands, open bus celebrations, live music and the chance to buy all sorts of football memorabilia.

It’s game day; you think the celebrations stop there?

Wrong, as you emerge from the underground depths of London, you quickly become exposed to a scrimmage of activity down Wembley Way: American fans interacting with the British, continuing Saturday's party thanks to events hosted by NFL staff.

Left a little disappointed? Get ready for celebrity A-List approval.

The International Series has proven it isn't just NFL regulars who are attracted to the event, celebrities also come in their abundance, with past years catering for superstars like Cheryl Cole, the Beckham's, David Haye and Dizzee Rascal.

The celebrity fun doesn’t stop there, an iconic feature that has emerged from the NFL takeover has proven to be the pre-game entertainment hosted by some of the biggest musicians in the world, from artists such as Calvin Harris, Stereophonics and Tinie Tempah as well as memorable national anthems sung by some of the most talented singers, including England’s own Laura Wright.

And it’s not just American football heading London’s way.

NFL’s intrusion isn’t the only line of attack in the Atlantic invasion, in fact the first signs America’s finest sports could take shape in London started in 1993, when the London Games hosted two NBA matches between the Orlando Magic and Atlanta Hawks.

Fourteen years later the NBA returned to the capital a part of the Live Europe Event, hosted between the Boston Celtics and the Minnesota Timberwolves. Ironically the same year the NFL International Series graced London.

Like NFL, the National Basketball Association saw the potential in London and in 2011 the fixture between the New Jersey Nets (turned Brooklyn Nets) and Detroit Pistons became the first regular season fixture to take place in a European City.

Demand for the two sports have quickly outstripped the supply, with tickets becoming gold dust for both sets of fans. Earlier this month saw the quickest sell-out for January’s fixture between the Hawks and Nets, with thousands of fans left devastated, me included.

Similarly to the progression of American Football, it's just a matter of time before we begin to see more than one regular season game take to the O2 Arena, and it won’t be long before rumours of NBA's own London franchise start to emerge from the varnished court floor boards.

NBA, NFL, the invasion will surely end there, right? Right?

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