NFL London Game Deemed Success; Mixed Reaction To Permanent Team
The NFL New England Patriots-St. Louis Rams game in London Sunday marked the NFL’s sixth int'l game at Wembley Stadium with 84,004 fans “on hand to see these two teams play,” according to Field Yates of ESPN.com. Whether an NFL team ever is placed in London “remains to be seen, but the NFL certainly has had its share of success in hosting these annual games” (ESPN.com, 10/28). ESPN.com's Field Yates reported that Fans in attendance “showed boisterous support throughout the game, including plenty of cheers for the Patriots, who were technically the ‘road’ team during the neutral-site affair.” Patriots Coach Bill Belichick said, "You heard a lot of back and forth cheering in the game, when normally it's one way or the other.” He added, “Wembley Stadium is obviously big, almost cavernous there with that slight opening up on top. The lighting is a little bit different. It's a big crowd, a good crowd. They were in to the game" (ESPN.com, 10/28). In St. Louis, Jim Thomas wrote the pregame buildup “had the feel of a mini-Super Bowl.” Despite the Patriots 45-7 victory over the Rams, almost “all of the fans hung in there till the end.” The crowd was “pro-New England, but not as much as anticipated.” During “lulls in the action, the Wave made a European appearance.” Rams CB Cortland Finnegan said, "I enjoyed it. I thoroughly enjoyed it." Rams LB James Laurinaitis said, "London treated us great" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 10/29).
LONDON FRANCHISE VIABLE?: SI.com’s Jon Wertheim noted Sunday’s game “sold out, and most of the 84,000 fans appeared to be confused, bemused and ultimately enthused.” Most fans were “somewhere in the middle,” as it was “not a gripping game, but a gripping spectacle.” The NFL “ought to be pleased, too” (SI.com, 10/28). In London, Ben Saunders wrote American football fans in Britain “have got it pretty good, but is an NFL franchise really viable?” The first thing the NFL “has learnt about London is that it will draw a crowd once a year.” The Wembley atmosphere is “rather like that of a rugby league Challenge Cup final.” NFL execs next year will “find out whether Wembley will be able to pull the punters in when they have two games within a month of each other” (LONDON TIMES, 10/29). SI.com’s Peter King wrote the NFL's “test in Europe will come when multiple games are played with some mediocre teams” (SI.com, 10/26). In London, Nick Szczepanik wrote NFL execs “believe that the appetite exists” for football in the U.K. and “you get the feeling that they are probably right.” Ticket prices for yesterday’s game ranged from $80-$239. The two games next season are “expected to tell the NFL whether casual fans will attach themselves to a team that appears regularly” (INDEPENDENT, 10/29). USA TODAY’s Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz wrote placing a team outside of North America “presents entirely different logistical problems.” With the time changes and “distances involved, shipping a London-based team to the United States eight times a season for away games certainly would rattle the league's competitive balance.” It is a “tantalizing idea but one probably best kept in the pep rally forum” (USA TODAY, 10/27). TIME.com’s Glen Levy wrote while there is “no questioning the interest and knowledge shown by the British fanbase, polite applause greets completed passes rather than the raucous roars often heard across American stadia” (TIME.com, 10/29).
ONGOING EXPERIMENT: The GUARDIAN’s Sean Ingle wrote American football is “again moving the chains in Britain,” and the NFL’s plan “seems to be working.” But Rams QB Sam Bradford said of children he met near EPL club Arsenal's training ground, "It was surprising just how little they knew about our game. Some of the kids, it was the first time they'd ever seen an American football.” Kirkwood is “chilly on the prospects” for an NFL London franchise “at least in the short term.” He said, "You don't want to do things for a sake of doing things. Our fan base would probably need to triple in size for it to be sustainable” (GUARDIAN, 10/28). In Tampa, Tom Jones wrote the NFL “continues to push this London game, and I don't get it.” Jones: “First off, why not make it a big deal in this country? Make it a Friday game. Or a Saturday game. Why not make it the Monday night game? Make it special.” He continues, “If it's not a big deal here and it's not a big deal there, what's the point?” (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 10/29). In Boston, Christopher Gasper wrote "the league’s clarion call is falling on a lot of deaf ears.” An NFL franchise in London “wouldn’t turn many heads.” The big football game everyone is talking about that was played Sunday in London was not Patriots-Rams, "but rather it was EPL matchup Chelsea-Manchester United" (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/28). ESPN BOSTON’s Reiss wrote of a potential NFL London team, “I don't sense agreement from many of the fans I've spoken with here over the past few days.” The general feeling is that they “presently have allegiances to already-existing NFL teams and wouldn't switch for a newly formed or relocated NFL club” (ESPNBOSTON.com, 10/28).