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Volume 21 No. 2
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Former players share highs and lows of London

What do former players think of the NFL in London? We asked Michael Strahan and Ronde Barber, who each played in NFL International Series games, to share their thoughts. Here’s what they had to say:

What did you expect playing in London would be like?

Barber: I’m not sure what we expected from either London trip I took to play. I love the city, though. I had been to London a few times before my first game there and had been to Wembley [Stadium] to watch soccer. So I kind of knew what the environment would be like in the stadium. What I didn’t know was how Europeans would take American football. I honestly assumed they would just be casually interested at best.

Strahan: I expected to go over there and have a packed house and see a crowd that was truly there to watch a great football game and that they didn’t really have a particular team that they were rooting for. Just a very rowdy, soccer-type crowd.

What was it like actually?

Barber: In actuality, they were very into the game. Though I get the feeling there were a lot of American expats there. But even the locals seemed to draw off the excitement of the experience. I mean the NFL makes a rather large production of it so I guess that’s to be expected. The hype machine worked.

Strahan: Exactly what I imagined. Except that they had jerseys representing every team around the NFL. They

Said Strahan: “I was really surprised about the knowledge that the fans there had. And also how many locals came to the game, not only Americans that were in London.”
Photo by: Getty Images
knew how the game flowed. I was really surprised about the knowledge that the fans there had. And also how many locals came to the game, not only Americans that were in London.

What did you like about the experience?

Barber: I think there was a lot to like. As I mentioned, London is a fantastic city and being able to be there for a lot of the guys who had not been was exciting. The game definitely had a bigger than a regular-season matchup feel, so that was a positive, too.

Strahan: The culture. There is something so different from flying into a U.S. city playing a game and flying home. The great thing is that there you had a chance to get out and see the culture of the country, to see some things that a lot of guys had never seen before. And that was my favorite part of this trip, the energy of London. It’s magnificent, and that’s coming from somebody who is from New York. 

What didn’t you like?

Barber: The travel was brutal the first time we went over there. We treated it like an away game on the West Coast so we left only a day before. Of course heading east you get there the next day. That five-hour time change sucked. The second time was a lot more amiable since we left the Monday before the game. Got there Tuesday and practiced like a normal week.

Strahan: It’s expensive.

Ronde Barber (right) in action at Wembley in 2011.
Photo by: Getty Images
What were the fans like?

Barber: The fans were great. They were into seemingly everything. You can be a casual fan and tell when a big play happens. Though I’m not sure they were actually cheering for either side. There were a wide range of NFL jerseys represented, not necessarily those of the teams playing.

Strahan: Energetic. Loud. Knowledgeable. Rowdy. True football fans.

What was the stadium like?

Barber: Wembley is an outstanding venue. Having been there as a fan and a player, it’s one of the best places I’ve been. That being said, the field is/was better suited as a pitch for soccer than a surface for football — very slick footing!

Flying the friendly skies

Teams playing in London this season in the International Series will roll up some serious frequent flyer miles.

Sept. 28 (Week 4)

Team Air Miles to London
Oakland Raiders 5,993
Miami Dolphins 4,507

Oct. 26 (Week 8)

Team Air Miles to London
Atlanta Falcons 4,364
Detroit Lions 3,937

Nov. 9 (Week 10)

Team Air Miles to London
Dallas Cowboys 5,002
Jacksonville Jaguars 3,996

Note: Oakland is eight hours behind London time and Dallas is six hours behind. All other cities listed are five hours behind London. All three games are scheduled for Sundays.
Source: SportsBusiness Journal research

Strahan: Beautiful, absolutely breathtaking. Especially knowing the history of it really takes you back.

Do you think the NFL should play more games there?

Barber: I think they should as long as the interest remains high. Our football will obviously never dent the popularity of futbol there, but as a niche market for a few games [at most] a year, I think it’s a good idea.

Strahan: Definitely. The players enjoy it. They have a good time and they have a chance to see something totally different and experience something out of the country.

Do you think the NFL will one day locate a team there full time?

Barber: No way! Operating logistics don’t make sense. Financially it would be cumbersome I think. Managing personnel and transacting players just seems like it would be a nightmare. There’s a lot of talk about it, but I think it’s silly idealism and conjecture at best.

Strahan: From my understanding, yes. I’m not sure about logistics, but it would be very interesting if they could create a team there and keep a fan base there that could support it. Judging from the teams there in the past, it looks like they could and definitely will make a concerted effort.

Note: Responses were made via email.