Have you been to the NFL games in London? Supporting professional football teams and attending their games are a huge part of American culture. So, when our teams have the honour of playing in London, there is a tremendous amount of planning involved to make sure the experience is a success for fans, the two countries, and obviously the players.
When I spent a day at #JaxCamp over the summer, I had an exclusive opportunity to learn how the Jacksonville Jaguars prepare for an NFL in London game. During the time I spent with the team’s Director of Football Logistics and Facility, I learned what it really takes to get the Jaguars from my sunny home state of Florida to London.
NFL Games in London: BIG NEWS
The Jacksonville Jaguars have a four year contract for the London games. 2015 is the third year they will play across the pond. As true to the past, they will announce next year’s game date on October 26, which is the day after they play the 2015 game in London against the Buffalo Bills.
NFL Games in London: Let’s Get it Started!
The Jaguars will claw through the rest of the 2015 football season, and in February of 2016 the Director of Football Logistics and Facility travels to London to start the coordination process for the next game.
He begins researching and visiting hotels to determine a location for the team to stay when they arrive in the Fall. In June, a bigger planning team travels to London which includes PR representatives, security personnel and more.
You would think that the team could just follow through with the same venue each year. However that is not the case.
For the first NFL in London game in 2013, the Jaguars left from Jacksonville, Florida and stayed in London for one week. Their hotel was in South London.
Last year, they left from Cincinnati, Ohio after playing the Bengals. For the first part of the week they stayed in Watford (North London). The hotel they chose had a rugby field next to it, which made practicing logistically easier. Then, they stayed in Central London for the final days of the trip.
This year they will only be in London for five days. Choosing a hotel was a bit more difficult because of the Rugby World Cup.
NFL Games in London: Passports and Appearances
Surprisingly, one of the biggest concerns of the planning process is making sure all of the players have valid passports. In fact, it seems that each year they’ve had a few players whose first trip out of the United States is to play in the NFL Games in London.
To ensure nothing goes wrong with passport applications, the team has a separate company come to the stadium and meet with all the players to review their documents prior to their submission to the United States Department of State.
Prior to the game, some team members will make promotional trips to London to generate enthusiasm for the event.
NFL Games in London: The Team Trip
The Jacksonville Jaguars fly on Virgin Atlantic. Normally for away games the number of people they take on a plane includes 160-180 people. For the London game, this can rise up to 220. Aside from including additional sponsors, they also travel with the practice squad of 10 players. And of course, the Roar of the Jaguars flies to London too!
NFL Games in London: Fans in the Stands
Because fans for the game include American expats in London, Londoners, and Americans who have traveled to London for the games, the team also wants to honour British culture and history. Last year they had poppies for the game because it took place on November 9th, Rememberance Day.
With regard to the actual game, it’s a bit different than those played in the United States. Fans tend to wear football jerseys for many different NFL teams, not just the two that are playing. They seem to still be learning the rules and customs of American football but arrive at the games excited and ready for fun.
NFL Games in London: Are You Ready?
There will be player appearances at the NFL on Regent Street ‘tailgating’ party held on Saturday, October 24th and many other events to be announced. If you’d like to be included on information for NFL in London activities, make sure to subscribe to the Sunny in London newsletter.
If you’ve attended the games in the past, please do leave a comment below regarding your experience. Of course, if you have questions about the games, leave those too!
I look forward to seeing everyone at the Regent Street party and other NFL Games in London events. Don’t forget, my Guide to London for Americans Visiting the First Time, which includes the blog’s best hotel, attraction and restaurant tips as well.
If you’re planning a visit to London, the Sunny News YouTube channel has regular updates of advice for things to do and what you’ll need to know about London. This includes safety tips, pub advice, and a shopping guide.