It’s time to show some appreciation for the London Games argues Dale Jones.
It was announced recently that the 2020 NFL season will be played out in its entirety in the US. Meaning that the proposed games in London & Mexico for this year will no longer be going ahead.
Whilst this news was disappointing for all of us UK fans, there was a sense of inevitability about the decision. A decision we can all understand and respect. Particularly given the health & safety grounds for which this decision had been made on.
Especially when you set it against all the postponements & cancellations other leagues are facing around the world.
This no doubt leaves a bit of a gaping hole in the UK calendar of NFL events. Not least because we’ve all become accustomed to seeing 3-4 games in London in recent seasons. So I thought now was a good time to take a step back and reflect on the situation. After all, it hasn’t always been this way.
The London Games
London has to date played host to a whopping 28 Regular Season games since 2007. Just think about that for a moment. In just 13 years, we’ve been fortunate enough to see 28 meaningful games on our shores. Which, when put into context, works out at 3.5 full seasons of an equivalent NFL franchise’s home games. This feat would have been absolutely unthinkable even 15 years ago. Make no mistake about it, the UK has shown its appetite for the NFL. To a degree that many probably thought would never be possible.
I (as I’m sure is also the case for many others) have probably been guilty at times of taking for granted the regular spate of games in the UK. Having regular season games played here has moved on from what was an initial pipe dream, to a luxury; and dare I say it in recent times something of an expectation.
London (and the UK) has been lucky to get these games
We’ve become so accustomed to seeing games played out over here. Because of that at times we perhaps don’t view it as the privilege that it so obviously is. There can be a sense of entitlement towards these games. And to be completely honest we have no real claim to that entitlement.
We’re as passionate as any US fans and in many ways we go to further lengths to prove it. (Salute to all the late night warriors turning up to work every Monday on minimal sleep every week from September through to February). But the honest truth is that it isn’t our game. And we’ve no divine right for it to be played here.
London Games fixture announcements in the last few years have been met with waves of moans & complaints. Be it about the way that the demand for tickets are handled or bemoaning the upcoming match-ups. Again, I’ve certainly been guilty of this and I suspect there are others out there who would also hold their hands up.
Whilst it’s clear that there are certain franchises who are perhaps “less glamorous” than others, to be able to even see any of them grace our shores is an absolute privilege. Since the London Games began we’ve seen 31 of the 32 franchises head over to play a game (sorry Packers fans), which is an absolutely incredible achievement.
Our good fortune is someone else’s loss
What can quickly be forgotten in all of this is that for every game that is played over in the UK, one of those franchises has to give up a home game. When your team only plays 8 home games a year, that’s a significant proportion of the season. Local fans of each of those franchises lose out each time their team gives up a home game to the UK. Something that can often be met with understandable negativity. Let’s face it, we wouldn’t exactly want to see it happen with our favourite football, rugby or cricket team.
But with that it should also be pointed out that here in the UK we’ve backed these games with regular sell outs. Plus the growth of support for the game has been fantastic to see over these last 10-15 years. The NFL continues to come back here because we continue to lap it up, and long may that continue.
Let’s appreciate what we’ve had
The break in games in the UK for this season gives us all some time to be able to take a step back and really appreciate what we’ve been able to enjoy so far. From those who have been to every IS game, to those who’ve only been to one, each and every one of us is lucky to have had that opportunity. We will almost certainly continue to enjoy it all again once the NFL returns to our shores in 2021.
I’m going to miss going to see live games this year, and perhaps just as much I’m going to miss the full weekend of events around the games. I’ll be back as soon as the NFL is ready to safely return to London. But this time with a fresh sense of gratefulness to be able to see live NFL action without having to leave the country.