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Thursday, 16 November 2017

Wembley versus Twickenham: The Great British American Football Debate

wembley-stadium, american-football, nfl, uk

With the rising popularity of American football here in the UK, more and more people are heading down to London in the autumn to watch the NFL International Series games.

Having just completed its tenth season running, it’s clear that UK football is far from a dying sport. However, with increased popularity and further fan interest comes a whole new host of hurdles for officials and organisers to overcome. Now, it’s not just about trying to grow the sport overseas, it’s about trying to convince teams to make the journey across the pond, giving up one of their precious home games for the privilege.

Plus, with more and more people wanting to come down and watch a game, there is another thing for the officials to think about - where should the London games be played?

In past years, Wembley Stadium has been the obvious choice. Its modern facilities, large capacity and recognisable name make it a firm favourite. It’s also fairly easy to get to from London itself, being just a short hop out on the tube. But as the number of games increased, recently, a new stadium had its name thrown into the mix.

The home of British rugby, Twickenham Stadium might not be the most obvious choice to play host to the NFL. However, it’s impossible to argue that there are no parallels between football and rugby, possibly why those in charge decided to give it a shot.

twickenham-stadium, american-football, nfl, uk

Compared to the fact that the NFL usually manages to ‘sell out’ Wembley’s 90,000 capacity, some may argue that choosing Twickenham’s smaller capacity of 82,000 is actually a step backwards. On the flipside, Twickenham offers a more intimate atmosphere, a chance to get up close and personal with the ins and outs of the game. Swings and roundabouts.

Of course, I can only speak for myself, but I've always preferred Wembley. It's not just the stadium itself that stands out, though, it's the whole atmosphere that adds to the overall feel of the event. There's nothing like that feeling when you walk out of the tube station on gameday to a sea of jerseys, all the way down to the stadium itself. Every team is represented and people take the opportunity to dress up and make the most of the occasion - at the London games, even the familiar favourite 'Cheesehead' attire is considered pretty tame!

Granted, Wembley wins extra points in my book because Twickenham is just such a pain to get to - ease and convenience of access always make a winner, but I'm sorry to say that Twickenham just seemed to fall flat on game day. There was none of the fun and excitement, bright lights and palpable atmosphere that turns a Wembley game into a true football experience; instead, queueing to get in felt more like standing in a queue at a cashpoint.

With all this in mind, it's important not to forget that it's all probably a bit of a pointless debate by now. After all, once the new Tottenham Hotspur stadium is complete, the NFL will be taking a trip across town and decamping to its shiny new headquarters thanks to the league's deal with the owners. Of course, it's impossible to pass judgement on the new incarnation of White Hart Lane until it's finished and ready for action, but from early reports, it looks to be shaping up well. 

I don't know about you, but I can't wait to see what the future holds for hosting American football here in the UK!

Have you been to a game? Which venue is your favourite? Let me know in the comments below!

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