Wembley Stadium and Twickenham Stadium

This year, 2017, we are lucky enough to have 4 NFL regular season games being played in the UK for the first time.

Since the first NFL regular season game was played anywhere outside North America in 2007, when the New York Giants beat the Miami Dolphins by a score of 13-10 at Wembley Stadium, London, England, the number of games has steadily increased up to where we are today. With an incredible 4 games and talks of maybe even eventually increasing that to a massive 8 games, should the interest stay consistent or increase, things are looking good for us European-based NFL fans.

Up until 2016, all the games had been played at the home of English football, the magnificent Wembley Stadium located in Wembley, London. In 2016 a second venue was added to the mix as the NFL looked to experiment with other stadiums to discover their suitability for hosting an NFL game. This venue was Twickenham Stadium, the home of English rugby union and the home of the RFU (Rugby Football Union – rugby union’s governing body).

Wembley Stadium - venue of NFL regular season games since 2007
Twickenham Stadium - venue of NFL regular season games since 2016

This first game at Twickenham Stadium was played out between the New York Giants and the ‘home team’ Los Angeles Rams. The Giants again came out with the win, as they did in the debut game at Wembley against the Dolphins by a score that, to be honest, flattered the Rams – 17-10.

Tottenham Hotspurs New Stadium

The NFL has announced a partnership with Tottenham Hotspur football club to play games at their new £750million home stadium from 2018, once the building of it has been completed. The deal that has been done is for 10-years of at least two NFL games a year, which will see us being treated to games in the UK right up until at least 2028! Whether this deal means that Twickenham and/or Wembley will lose their games per year no one on the outside knows right now. I doubt that both will, though. Spurs’ new stadium is said to feature retractable pitches to allow a grass playing surface for their premiership football games and an artificial playing surface which the NFL prefers.

The new Spurs stadium is reported to have a capacity of 61,000, which is a lot when compared to most football stadiums around the world, but when compared to Wembley’s 90,000 and Twickenham’s 82,000 it isn’t that much. Especially when you take into account the fact that both Wembley and Twickenham have been selling out every NFL game.

Why a Third Stadium?

I personally believe that the NFL might be expecting attendance figures to drop off a bit as more regular season games are added to the schedule to be played in the UK. This could be because people can’t afford to go to more than the current 3-4 games we have per year – as I have seen grumblings of on social media. If the NFL can’t keep increasing their fanbase in Europe then the larger stadiums will not be selling out, tickets-wise, for the games if/when more are added to the calendar. I see them adding more games to the NFL London schedule whilst trying to continue getting capacity crowds. If there isn’t a larger fanbase gained in the next few years and not every one of the current NFL London game regulars keeps going to all games then, surely, not everyone will have to go to every game with a slightly smaller capacity stadium. You could say that the hardcore regulars with the funds to do so will go to every game whilst the rest of the capacity crowd is made up of different people at different games. This could also add to the atmosphere as those different people at different games pick and choose their games based on which teams are playing. Maybe more fans of certain teams will attend in larger numbers? It will still be a capacity crowd and great atmosphere.

It all seems to be still in the testing phases right now which, to me, is a reason Twickenham was added as a venue.

Whatever the reasons for adding the Tottenham Hotspurs stadium to the mix, I think it’s going to be a great venue and I applaud the NFL for their commitment to the UK with their brand.