As the NFL bids farewell to London for another year, we reflect on an incredible month for the sport in the UK as the Green Bay Packers completed the clean sweep, Commissioner Roger Goodell teased a European division and Wembley hosted its first game since 2019
Check out the top plays from the three NFL games held in London in 2022.
‘Did you get your crumpets?’ one Broncos reporter had asked colleagues upon arriving at the first practice day at Harrow School, while a group of others debriefed on sleeping patterns and jet lag, which of course the players, too, were pressed on all month. So the cliches, featuring The Clash’s London Calling, are still there, but with a greater sense of irony that does a nice job of feeding that International Series magic.
Oh, and the games, the football. The Jefferson clinic and the doink-doink drama in the Minnesota Vikings’ epic against the Minnesota Vikings, Wink Martindale’s blitz-mania and a slaloming Saquon in the Giants’ upset win over the UK-bowing Packers, Russell Wilson and Denver’s good, bad and ugly triumph versus the Jags. London could not have asked for much more, Green Bay’s lure, in particular, generating one of the most raucous and intense fan atmospheres in the history of the International Series. The Giants’ Barkley likened it to Penn State in college, which might be as notable a compliment as the UK games have heard.
Among it all Commissioner Roger Goodell reignited narratives that had been happily shelved by suggesting the UK could support not one but two NFL franchises, as well as pondering the potential of a future European division. Whether he believed it or not, it was at the very least insight into the league’s adoration for what it has built overseas.
Speculation over a London franchise is often based on a pursuit of permanence; look around at the fan investment of time, money and energy, the NFL Academy and its college-bound products, Great Britain Women’s World Championship silver medal and San Francisco 49ers watch parties in Leeds and you would say permanence has already been achieved.
Wil Lutz, who nailed a 60-yarder earlier in the game, steps up for a 61-yarder to send it to overtime, but watches the ball bounce off the upright twice before landing short as the Vikings beat the Saints in London. Wil Lutz, who nailed a 60-yarder earlier in the game, steps up for a 61-yarder to send it to overtime, but watches the ball bounce off the upright twice before landing short as the Vikings beat the Saints in London.
For now, London looks set to remain the league’s UK headquarters amid general wonderings over the feasibility of hosting games in other venues across the country. But what’s to say that does not change in years to come?
“We have a commitment to Tottenham Hotspur Stadium to deliver two games per year over the length of our partnership with them,” explained Hodgson. “The Jaguars are also committed to play one game per year at Wembley through to 2024. With that in mind, while we have previously explored opportunities at other stadiums around the UK, we have no plans to do so in the near term.”
The NFL sought to maximise every window of opportunity across the month, from Good Morning Football pitching up beside the Thames for a week to Ted Lasso and the gang watching in the stands and Tottenham asserting itself as the home of the International Combine, where Osi Umenyiora’s Uprise Academy was represented by 12 Nigerian players in another nod to the game’s globetrotting success.
Fifteen years on since the Giants and Miami Dolphins met in the first-ever London game, the league is now primed to head to Munich for its debut regular season matchup in Germany between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Seattle Seahawks, where the continent’s largest NFL fanbase awaits. Expansion in Europe combines with the UK’s team bingo in turning the page to the next phase of the International Series, while beckoning as a brand new sounding board.
“The first regular season game in Germany is an exciting opportunity to continue to grow the sport in mainland Europe,” said Hodgson. “Germany has a thriving fanbase, some of whom travel to our games in London, and it will be great to see the first game they host in Munich.
“Many of the NFL UK team are deeply involved in the planning and execution of that game, so it’ll be a chance for us to see how we can do things a little differently for their fanbase, and perhaps get some inspiration about how to continue to evolve our games and fan events in London.”