The NFL International Series enters its tenth year in the UK this September. From the single fixture way back in 2007, a 13-10 victory for the New York Giants over the Miami Dolphins, the NFL’s outreach to its impressive UK fan base has come a long way!
For the first time ever we’re going to see FOUR regular season NFL fixtures play out on our shores, alongside a repeat of the highly successful Mexico City addition to the series in 2016.
While there are many attending this year’s fixtures that will be old hats by now – season ticket holders who may well have attended each of the seventeen previous games – for those less familiar with ins and outs of the biggest sports league in the world coming to town?
Here’s our handy five-point guide for those new to the NFL International Series!
1. Just because you don’t have tickets to the games, doesn’t mean you can’t get involved!
Sure, at the heart of the more-than-a-month of NFL-y goodness are the four fixtures themselves, but there’s also a whole bunch of other action going on for the avid NFL fan who perhaps couldn’t get tickets this year (after they sold out straight away once again!) or who boats weren’t floated by the match ups being shared in 2017.
Alongside the games, the pre-game tailgate parties are open to all-comers, ticket or no, so if you fancy hanging out with 80,000 fans of the sport? Both Twickenham and Wembley are hosting tailgate parties from 9:30am right outside the stadiums! Free of charge and open to non-ticket holders, the tailgate parties feature appearances by NFL Hall of Famers, performances by cheerleaders, music acts and interactive and historical NFL elements.
If you’ve downloaded the NFL Fan Mobile Pass 2017, bring it along to the NFL London Games events to access some great NFL experiences as well as potentially receive FREE gifts and chances to win prizes from NFL partners.
Outside of the game days themselves, another HUGE event on the NFL UK calendar is the NFL on Regent Street event – London’s busy shopping street will be taken over by American football fever on Saturday, 30 September, the day before the New Orleans Saints v Miami Dolphins clash at Wembley. NFL fans can enjoy interactive games, performances and appearances from team players and coaches. #TeamDC will be heading along and on the look out for the #BritballNation representing – make sure you wear your Britball colours with pride and show off the domestic games to the tens of thousands of NFL fans headed along, many of whom aren’t even aware the sport’s played over here!
2. If you ARE headed to the games, get there early – it’s worth it!
As we noted above, the fixtures themselves are preceded by the tailgate parties – food, drink, festivities, fan events, Hall of Famers – the NFL put on a real show to help build up hype before the games.
Now, be aware: It’s London, and it’s a sports event, so food and beverages aren’t going to be cheap – somewhere around £7 per pint or portion of food. That said, for the pre-game stuff you’re not yet within the stadium itself, so there’s no need to adhere to the strict bag and bottles policy… yet. As such, if you’re planning on turning up early to catch the full NFL Live pre-game show, purchase some Official NFL Store merchandise and participate in the NFL Lab tests and activities, you can always bring some refreshments of your own, so long as they’re all polished off before you head into the stadium itself!
3. Swag, swag as far as the eyes can see!
One of the great things about the games, both during the tailgates and until 8pm following the fixtures, is the NFL Shop is on site selling a full range of merchandise for all 32 NFL teams. From balls, to beanies, to teddy bears, there’s a full account of everything available via the NFLUK merchandise brochure.
Some of it’s not perhaps as cheap as you might find it elsewhere, but it’s certainly an incredibly extensive range, including some items exclusive to each game you attend!
Personally I’ve got my eye on the NFL Mini Throwback Football that’d look sweet in the studio for when The Scoop starts up again for Uniball.
4. If you’ve not got a stake in it… Support the ‘home’ team!
There’s 32 NFL teams, eight of which are attending UK hosted games in 2017, so there’s a three outta four chance that your own team’s not in attendance this year.
However, that’s never stopped fans of the game in the UK from heading along and making the most of a big day out! Typically the crowd contains jerseys of every shade and creed, regardless of who’s playing – though notably the Jacksonville Jaguars have made a concerted effort to establish themselves a ‘home away from home’ in the UK, which certainly seemed to bear some fruit last year – the first time a nominal home team truly felt like it had the crowd at its back during the Jag’s 30-27 victory over the Colts – a second straight nail-biting win for the Jags, who’ll be looking to make it three-straight in London this Saturday against the currently undefeated Baltimore Ravens and their much-vaunted defence.
An NFL home game is a rare commodity – only 32 cities in America are privileged to receive perhaps only eight of these events each year – and as such if we want teams to keep making the trip across? It seems only fair that those sides willing to sacrifice the boost that comes from having a home crowd are made to feel a little big special when they do!
We’d never ask you to turn traitor on the team you’ve chosen, but if you’re a fan of one of the 30 other NFL teams not participating in the game you’re attending?
Well, on arrival at your seat for the fixture you’ll find yourself a complimentary flag for the home team. The PA and announcer will be set up in the same way as if, on Sunday for example, you were attending EverBank field itself in Florida – encouraging you to make noise when the Ravens offence is on the field and celebrating the Jags’ achievements throughout the game. Unless you’re a Ravens fan, jump whole hog into being a Union Jax follower for the day! Games always feel more special when you’ve got a stake in them, and you never know, you might enjoy being a Jag-Waas fan for a day!
It’s fair to say we haven’t got the most glimmering line-up of fixtures for the International Series games in 2017, but if we’re every hoping to lure one of those big market teams over here for a home game? We’re really gonna have to sell it to em by waving them Jags Flags this weekend and showing teams can really make themselves feel at home when visiting the UK for a fixture!
eyes bags, full hearts, can’t lose
Now, one thing you do need to be particularly wary of this year in the NFL are enforcing a particularly strict bag policy.
We went into more detail in a post earlier this month, but the gist of what they seem to be saying this year is, if you don’t want to risk having a bunch of your stuff confiscated on entering the stadiums? Be very careful about what you bring along with you to the game days themselves.
Now, there’s been something of a debate in the community about whether the policy this year is actually any different to that from previous years – where the NFL have said they’ll only allow certain bags in (most particularly the NFL brand tote bag, for sale from all the NFL Shop outlets in the NFL Fan Zones outside the stadiums), but have in actual fact allowed almost any and all to enter – those with bags outside the proscribed policy simply forced to undergo a more thorough search upon entering the stadium – the argument being this might be an NFL policy, but it’s not a Wembley or Twickenham one.
Now, we’re not going to concretely say it’s one way or ‘tuther. Certainly the NFL’s statement released at the start of September seemed pretty clear:
“[4th September] The NFL has today announced that to help provide a safer environment for all fans, NFL will be implementing their strict bag policy for all 2017 NFL London Games which will be 100% enforced at both Wembley Stadium and Twickenham Stadium.”
It might be a gamble you’re willing to take, but we’d personally err on the side of caution and say snag one of the £5 NFL transparent tote bags. Sure, maybe it’s a money grab, but worse comes to worst you get an extra little piece of merch from the day that you can bring to future events too!
And finally, a little bonus tip: 6. Grab them cups!
The International Series brought games to Twickenham for the first time in 2016 and while many long-time attendees of the games weren’t massive fans of the new venue compared to the greater creature comforts of Wembley Stadium.
One thing that found universal approval were the NFL brand plastic beverage cups available uniquely at the venue!
It’s something of a Rugby stadium ‘thing’ to have branded vessels for the brewskis, and the home of English Rugby stepped up and pushed the boat out last year with their NFL-theme cups and while there’s no guarantee they’ll be doing the same this October? It’s well worth keeping an eye out for.
If we remember correctly they require an extra £1 deposit with your first drink (you can hand em back in when you purchase subsequent ones to save paying the extra fee again), but they’re well worth the little splash it to take home another swanky, and very affordable, memoir from the day!
(or, if you’re feeling particularly short on the pocket change – just wait around a little after the games end and grab cups, and home team flags, galore from the departing crowds!)
What are you looking forward to most from this year’s NFL International Series? Will this year be your first venture to an NFL fixture, or are you a member of the OG that have hit up every single kick off over the past decade?
Let us know your thoughts in the comments down below, or get in touch with us over Twitter @Dbl_Coverage!