On October 4th 2015 the New York Jets will play the Miami Dolphins in a sold-out game at the iconic Wembley Stadium. For years the NFL has had an affiliation with Wembley and it’s easy to take for granted this location as host. However, for the English sporting public, Wembley is an incredibly special place. In this article we’ll give you a taste of why as English Jets fans, the location makes the arrival of the Green and White in London even more exciting.
Wembley is the home of English football; the sort with the round ball. Each year it plays host to only the most important games of the soccer calendar; cup finals, league playoff finals and international games. Unlike in the NFL, where the Super Bowl jumps between a different location each year and the championship games are played at the home team’s stadiums, more often than not the most high profile games in soccer take place at Wembley. This is partly due to its size, but also because historically a trip here is the sought after experience. Teams in all tiers of English soccer aspire to play at Wembley. For the many players involved, it’s a dream they’ve had since playing in the park with their friends. If one day you get to play at Wembley, it means you’ve done well!
Not only is Wembley seen as the pinnacle of English football, it also holds much of the history of the game, not least being the location of England’s first (and only) world cup victory in 1966 – not much longer ago than the Jets first (and only) Super Bowl win! However, this was the ‘old’ Wembley; a much-loved icon of sport characterised by the ‘twin towers’ that flanked it. The turf onto which Gang Green will step on in October is the ‘new Wembley’; a monster stadium completed in 2007 with a capacity of around 90,000. With features like the huge metal arch, which loops across the top and the long walk down ‘Wembley Way’ that leads to the stadium, these have quickly become images synonymous with success. However, just like with the building of new stadium in the NFL, not least Met Life Stadium, this didn’t come cheap or to universal agreement, costing nearly £800 million ($1.25 billion). Similarly, ‘Club Wembley’ seats were the first time the idea of a PSL was introduced over here and we all know how people feel about that.
Still, Wembley’s history with the NFL does actually hark back to the mid 80s. Through a series known as the American Bowl, established in 1986, pre-season exhibition games were played around the globe in the hopes of promoting the sport to a wider market. A game between the Chicago Bears and Dallas Cowboys in August 1986 was the first live experience the UK and Wembley would witness. The series went on until 2005, eventually playing all over the world. Such countries as Mexico, Japan, Australia, Canada, Germany, Spain, Ireland, and of course England, all took part. Wembley was to see eight games exhibited on its esteemed grounds, the last in 1993.Once the second coming of the NFL overseas dawned in 2007, the International Series had a venue now perfectly suited for its extraordinary event; London’s new Wembley stadium. Since its rebuild completed early in the same year, the stadium was now shiny and new, the atmosphere electric. Its bowl shape adopted by many other modern stadium offers the spectators an unobstructed viewing experience. Even the seats ‘up in the clouds’ still offer great views of the game. Eager NFL fans wishing to watch the sport in this country would now call this home. That’s not to say that Wembley is important to all European fans; notice we say ‘English’ a lot. In Wales, Scotland, & Ireland, not to mention other parts of Europe, there are number of impressive stadiums with fans that would love to see an NFL game played there. In 2013 a NCAA college game was played with great success in Croke Park, Dublin, Ireland, setting the scope for wider possibilities.
This year marks the eighth year the International Series has been held successfully at Wembley. Commissioner Goodell even spoke about one day possibly hosting the Super Bowl in the UK with Wembley its hosting venue. If the series continues to be a success and more NFL fans are recruited in the UK, this idea may not be an incongruous one, although equally one that may not be totally appreciated by all in the NFL’s home nation. Nevertheless, we look forward to painting our national stadium green and white for the first time this October.