NFL International Series 2015 at Wembley Stadium

 NFL International Series 2015 Wembley Stadium

A beginner’s guide to ‘America’s game

As we hurtle through World Cup 2015 with a fast-moving treadmill of matches and surprise results (looking at you, England vs. Wales), some Britons may be starting to experience rugby-fatigue.

Luckily, three matches set to take place in Wembley between October 4 and November 1 can act as a refreshing palate-cleanser. For those who are tired of rugby, the very British Wembley Stadium is donning a different hue of red-white-and-blue: American Football.

Every year since 2007, the National Football League (NFL) has hosted regular season football games at Wembley Stadium. The NFL International Series has proved that the sport most deeply engrained in and entwined with American culture actually travels swimmingly.

Before spitting out your tea in disbelief, let’s explore how London became a popular NFL outpost.

The Draft

The NFL’s touchdown in London wasn’t its first foray abroad. A league called NFL Europe unceremoniously folded in 2007, while a series of preseason games played around the world called the American Bowl went the way of the dodo in 2005. In 2007, unbowed by the game’s flaky history in Europe, the NFL started playing one regular season game at Wembley. These days, three games are hosted in London each year.

The Blitz

The NFL International Series now experiences resounding success in London. Tickets for each match regularly sell out months in advance, every game bar once since 2007 has attracted crowds north of 80,000, and one Vine post announcing the line-up for the 2015-16 NFL London games was played more than 1.1 million times. Plus, almost 90% of attendees are from the UK, demonstrating the strong domestic support the game has garnered.

The Huddle

‘America’s game’ has become so popular in the UK that murmurs about the introduction of a London-based team to the NFL are growing louder each year. The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, recently said on Twitter that he has been “working hard on a deal” to establish a team in London, while Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne said the government will do whatever it can “to make this happen.” Could a brand new NFL team grow from English soil? Or could an existing team emigrate from the US? Watch this space.

Regular Season

Mark your diaries and prepare to hear Wembley roar: on October 4, the New York Jets and the Miami Dolphins will bring their age-old rivalry to this side of the Atlantic; October 25 will see relative newcomers the Jacksonville Jaguars take on the Buffalo Bills; and on November 1, the Kansas City Chiefs will attempt to take charge of the fierce Detroit Lions.


The game may feature a veritable stadium’s worth of mind-bogglingly complex rules, but strip it back to its core and it’s essentially a game of catch-and-run. Once you’ve got the basics, it’s time to sit back and enjoy the ride: the music, the mascots, the cheerleaders, and the crowd, not to mention the explosive tackles and clashes on the field. It’s sporting spectacle amped up to 11.

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