Football – one word with two meanings, depending on which side of the pond you’re on. While in Britain, football might be the sensationally popular sport that’s made names like Beckham, Bale and Ronaldo famous, just across the ocean it means a different thing entirely to American fans.
In the United States, this game of throw and tackle to the goal line is the most popular in the country – state, city and school teams battle it out for prestigious league titles in front of crowds that regularly reach more than 10,000. The professional league – called the NFL or National Football League – is the most distinguished of the group and counts its followers around the world in the millions.
Since 2007, the NFL has been making an organised effort to bring football to American fans living abroad and to foster a sense of excitement in the game on UK shores – so far seven regular season games have been hosted at Wembley Stadium, and thanks to its growing popularity in 2013, for the first time two regular-season games will be played in the UK.
Getting involved in the action
If you love American football or just fancy seeing what all the fuss is about, there are plenty of ways to get involved in the action.
This year, the first game for 2013 took place on 29 September when the Minnesota Vikings defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 34-27. Wembley was set to host the action once again on 27 October, with Florida’s Jacksonville Jaguars taking on the San Francisco 49ers from sunny California. You can buy tickets for the game on the NFL UK’s website; when the day rolls around there will be lots of exciting things happening in London and near the stadium, so be sure to book yourself into one of the area’s Wembley Hotels so you don’t miss a moment of the action.
Outside of game day there are also lots of ways to keep up on the league – important games are now regularly being broadcast on Sky Sports and British Europ Sport HD and feature expert commentary to help you get excited and understand the rules of the game.
Leading up to the next game in October, the NFL is also taking its show on the road with the Touchdown Tour, which will visit Birmingham, Milton Keynes, Kent, London and Portsmouth. Along with representatives of the game and cheerleaders, fans will also have the opportunity to see the famous Super Bowl trophy in the flesh.
Perhaps the most popular – and certainly most visible – event on the NFL calendar in the UK is the fan rally. This year on 26 October more than 40,000 people are expected to descend on Trafalgar Square donning their football jerseys to celebrate the games with their fellow fans.
Players, cheerleaders and NFL legends will all be in attendance for the special event, which will include an onstage interview from the NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, along with interviews from both head coaches, high-profile players and performances from the cheerleaders and mascots of each team.
Top that off with NFL merchandise, food, drink and a host of fun and interactive games, and you have everything you need to get a taste for what American football is all about.
- License: Creative Commons image source
Roy Barker is an American in the UK and a lifelong fan of football. He freelances for a digital marketing company.