International Series review – NFL in the UK has found it’s home

Steve Ovenden (@happyhappysteve) looked back at last weekend’s game in London and reviews the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium

The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium saw its second game arrive in the form of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Carolina Panthers.  After my preview of this game last week, I was expecting a tight game from the divisional rivals but in the in end it saw a score line which flattered the home team somewhat.  This however didn’t take anything away from the match day experience and the game was still the spectacle to watch.

This was my first game since the Chargers/Titans game at Wembley last year and I was not disappointed.  Unfortunately I could not attend the Raiders/Bears game so I was very much looking forward to seeing what the fuss was all about regarding the new stadium.  Attending the I.S games has been a big part of my year since first attending in 2013, so I really wanted to see what was on offer and see the venue in action.

Wembley as a host, in my opinion, has been in decline over the last couple of years.  The stadium and surrounding area is really only suitable for one game a year now and really should only be used as a ‘special occasion’ stadium. Home to the spectacular and one off events that require special attention, like when soccer’s F.A Cup final comes to town.  Playing more than one takes away how special an occasion attending an NFL game should be. Due to construction around the stadium and as of last year no access to the outside concourse until gates were ready to open, its the tailgating experience that suffers. Merchandise stalls and food outlets become overcrowded and uncomfortable places to be due to the sheer mass of people around the ground.  This shouldn’t take away from inside the stadium though. The games are always so enjoyable to watch and the British crowd still bring the noise and an electric atmosphere that the game deserves.

I have enjoyed every game I have been too and in the stadia it was hosted but the experience of being at Tottenham last Sunday felt like I was back at my first game again.  Everything felt different still but very familiar at the same time. Walking out of the train station, signs that Football had come to town were already present. As you approach the stadium, the NFL decor comes into full view and it does not immediately strike you that you are approaching a soccer club just playing host, you are coming towards something that’s meant to be there. It makes the statement that the NFL is here and this is our home.

At the ground, the tailgating attractions were spread up and down the high street running away from the ground, the food outlets were separated over in the local school playground and local shops and businesses were also getting into the spirit of the occasion.  Everything on offer was spread out a little more but the spirit of the day was never lost going from one place to another. Merchandise was in abundance as you went in the NFL store. There was no smaller stands present around the venue but their was no need as everything you needed was all in one place.  The shop allowed you to browse at your own pace and this made a big difference from other years because the merchandise stands never gave you a lot of options to make the choices you wanted as queues were longer and you felt pressured to rush your purchase. The ability to take your time, coupled with shorter queuing system made for a more organised and efficient shopping experience.

Outside was really good, so it is only fair to say that the inside was more than a match.  The feeling when you go into the ground was exhilarating as you saw the Gridiron for the first time in a brand new stadium.  It really felt and looked like the NFL had found its home from home. The stadium was fresh, spacious, comfortable and the four giant screens really complemented the action on the pitch giving you a great second view of everything going on.  It really contained the crowd noise, creating a loud and exciting atmosphere when good plays were made and touchdowns were scored. The players cant of heard too much of what each other were saying, especially on third down, due to the noise.

The game itself was good, nothing out of the ordinary from what we have seen from previous London games.  This and last weeks games were more about the venue this year, than the games themselves. It was a good start for the purpose built venue and everything during the day felt more organised, less rushed and seemed to have a flow about it.  It makes you want to come back next week for more American Football. This stadium is the biggest purpose built American Football stadium outside of the states and it shows they have put a lot of thought into the design of the venue and the match day.  I for one can not wait to visit again.

The NFL has found its London home and it is here to stay.

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