Super Bowl in London? Bring your brollies…
Having been based in China for the last few years, I am no stranger to the giddy ambitions of visionary sports administrators trying to “grow” their “brands” outside their heartlands.
We’ve had them all here. NBA, Major League Baseball, NFL, the Asian Cricket Council, Leicester Tigers rugby club, a string of Europe’s top soccer clubs, world snooker, both professional tennis tours and various professional golf tours — all aiming to stake a claim to a share of China’s 1.3 billion-strong market.
Generally there is a big press conference, the launch of a Chinese website, investment in a youth development scheme (cash amount undisclosed), a wildly over-inflated estimate of their fan base in China and a promise to bring their big name stars to Beijing or Shanghai.
Some have had more success than others, but several have joined the ranks of the thousands of foreign businessmen who arrive in China with high hopes and leave chastened by the experience with their pockets substantially lighter.
Even having witnessed the birth of so many of these visionary schemes, I was still shocked at the story in the English papers at the weekend that the NFL was considering allowing London to host the Super Bowl .
Quite apart from the central place Super Bowl Sunday has in American sporting culture, there is one key factor mitigating against the plan that even the mighty NFL can’t change — the great British weather.
Super Bowls have taken place in inclement weather before, but they have been aberrations.
In 1975, the delayed construction of the Louisiana Superdome led to the Steelers beating the Vikings in temperatures of eight degrees Celsius at the Tulane Stadium, while two years ago the Colts downed the Bears in unseasonal Miami rain.
A roofless Wembley in late January or early February, however, would pretty much guarantee even colder temperatures and a great chance of heavier rain.
The idea has been universally panned by netizens in the U.S. but the visionaries behind it would dismiss that as the natural conservatism of sports fans faced with innovation.
After all, the Super Bowl itself was once one such innovation and back in the mid-sixties there would have been grumblings from fans of the NFL unhappy at the inclusion of the upstart AFL in the World Championship Game (sic).
My favourite reaction this week was Aaron Liebman’s Roger Goodell To Have Super Bowl on the Moon, And Move Games to Tuesday,
Presumably, if the moon were granted the Super Bowl, a domed stadium would be built to protect the players from temperatures which vary between plus 127 and minus 173 degrees Celcius.
And if Mitch Phillip’s description of the Wembley crowd at a recent international soccer match is anything to go by, the moon might just have a little bit more atmosphere.
Pictures of last year’s NFL game in London by Dylan Martinez