NFL ready for new digs in London
Tottenham Hotspur’s new $1.2 billion stadium was built with the NFL in mind. Now it’s time to show it off.
Tickets are sold out for the two NFL games set for the stadium, and organizers promise a raft of fan experiences at the first purpose-built NFL stadium outside of the U.S.
The first NFL game at the north London stadium, which is home to Premier League soccer club Tottenham Hotspur, takes place Oct. 6 when the Chicago Bears take on the Oakland Raiders, followed by the Carolina Panthers versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Oct. 13.
The NFL expects fans visiting the new stadium will be wowed by the experience.
Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
“For fans that have gone to multiple games in the past, there will be a different look and feel to how we are going about it,” said Alistair Kirkwood, managing director of NFL UK.
The 62,000-seat stadium was built with the influence of Tottenham’s 10-year partnership with the NFL. For NFL games, the natural grass field will be rolled out to reveal a lower-placed artificial turf field. The stadium also features NFL-specific locker rooms, designed to accommodate the larger, added equipment.
“It is an NFL stadium,” said Aidan Mullally, Tottenham’s head of business development. “That’s the key message. From the very start of the design process, we had the NFL in mind. The anchor tenant is Tottenham, but this is designed to be a permanent home for the NFL outside the U.S.”
Fans attending NFL games at the stadium, which hosted its first Premier League match in April this year, can expect new experiences, complementing those they get at other stadiums. A yet-unnamed major pop star will perform at the half; previous NFL games in London have featured the entertainment act before kickoff.
Fans arriving on game day will be greeted by “vibrant activations” outside the stadium, “building the atmosphere ahead of the game throughout the local community,” said Donna Maria-Cullen, executive director of Tottenham. Activation outside will include an appearance by cheerleaders, face painting, music and food and drink outlets.
“Many fans will be visiting the new stadium and London for the first time and it’s important they have a fantastic occasion and leave with a positive impression both of Tottenham and the NFL,” Maria-Cullen said.
Inside the stadium, fans will find 60 food and drink outlets, including at 65 meters (71 yards) the longest bar in the U.K. The food and beverage locations have taken inspiration from London’s vibrant street food market. Kent-based KCCJ designed and outfitted all of the restaurants and bars in the stadium.
The stadium also boasts 100% Wi-Fi coverage that is free for fans. This stadium-wide connectivity means that through the club app fans can be guided to the nearest bar, toilet or restaurant. The app can also advise fans if there is a less crowded bar to go to or gate to enter.
Corporate hospitality packages sold for $311 to $996 each. The most expensive feature prime seats on either side of the 50-yard line and access to a private bar serving a three-course meal and champagne. Other packages offer behind-the-scenes views of the players tunnel or close proximity to the broadcast areas.
Tickets for the two NFL games at Wembley — Cincinnati Bengals versus Los Angeles Rams on Oct. 27 and Houston Texans versus Jacksonville Jaguars on Nov. 3 — have also been sold out, as the popularity of the sport continues to rise in London.
NFL London Games Sponsors
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According Kirkwood, the two Tottenham games sold out without marketing and promotional support and have attracted a broad international mix of fans. He said around 80% are coming from the U.K., 40% of which are from London and nearby areas. About 7% are coming from the U.S. and 12 percent will make the trip from other parts of Europe, with most coming from Germany.
Subway is the headline sponsor for the four NFL games in London, one of a dozen partners overall (see chart), while the games will be shown in 60 countries including a number of Sky channels and highlights shown on the BBC in the U.K.
There are “clear positives,” said Kirkwood, in having a stadium catered specifically for the NFL, particularly in having NFL-specific locker rooms.
“When we played at Twickenham, we had to knock down bars next to the rugby dressing rooms in order to build things up so we could cope with our size requirements,” he said. “There was a lot more work going into other stadiums to transform them to make them NFL-ready compared to this one.”
A significant part of the heavy lifting ahead of the games at Tottenham has gone into community outreach, as Tottenham and the NFL want to establish strong roots in the community. Central to this has been the first NFL Academy set up in London, designed to find and train 16- to 18-year-old athletes to play football.
Kirkwood said the 20 NFL players who have visited the new stadium have been “blown away” by it. Still, he doesn’t think that players will prefer playing at Tottenham compared to Wembley, as they offer different experiences.
“If you go to Wembley, it’s vast, and it’s got scale and history. If you go to Tottenham, it’s modern, it’s state of the art, it’s a dedicated facility to the NFL,” he said.
John Reynolds is a writer in London.