Super Bowl in London? Bring your brollies…

May 5, 2009

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.

Fans arrive to watch the New Orleans Saints play the San Diego Chargers in their NFL football game in London

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.  

Saints' running back McAllister is tackled by Chargers' Cooper and Dobbins during fourth quarter NFL action in London

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


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The NFL marketing group missed the big picture when they shut down the European League two years ago.

All the teams and the biggest group of fans were never in the U.K. and never will be.

They failed twice having teams in London and yet at the sametime consistently filled stadiums in places like Frankfurt and Dusseldorf Germany.

Yes the moon is a better place than the U.K.

Posted by Mark Smith | Report as abusive

superbowl in london sounds like an Onion story

Posted by Jimbo | Report as abusive

London??? hahaha they still play some immitation sport called rugby.

Posted by longshot | Report as abusive

It is ludicrous isn’t it Nick. Although you’d have thought the excruciating breaks between plays were long enough to allow whole new weather systems to move in…..

Posted by Miles Evans | Report as abusive

The thing you don’t understand LONGSHOT, is that football is an imitation of rugby; and until the forward pass was introduced the game was a lot like League Rugby, not the Union Rugby that you are, oh so slightly, familiar with. Most in the UK don’t enjoy American Football, mostly due to the fact that you stand there for 4 hours waiting for huddles, time outs, and TV commercial breaks; occasionally interrupted by actual sport. Like Mark Smith said, there are plenty of places in Europe that American Football can be successful, UK just isn’t one of them YET.

Posted by Sully | Report as abusive

Lets do the Math…In order for the game to be watched by the USA East coast, Kick off would be around 12 midnight British time…

That would mean 6pm east coast time, 3pm west coast and 12 noon Hawaiian time…..

Not sure what NFL Player would start a game at that time and play unitl 4am……

So back up a cuple of hrs,,,say British kick off is 9pm,,,that’s 3 pm east coast,,,12 noon west coast and 9am Hawaiian…

Keep going????…standard kick off is 6:18pm east coast sooooooo

British 6:18pm
East Coast 12:18 noon
West Coast 9:18am
Hawaiian 6:18am

Posted by Kyle W | Report as abusive

I’ll pass on watching the American Super Bowl unless it’s played in an American city that actually has an NFL team. This is jumping the shark……and screwing true football fans to hype this extravaganza over the top. It’s bad enough with the ridiculous half time shows, now this-see ya, NFL.

Posted by blove | Report as abusive

Not much good at math(s) Kyle but I think an 8pm local time kickoff (midday on the West Coast, 3pm in the East) would probably be what they’d go for. Depending on the length of the halftime show, you’d probably be in for a finish past midnight but they could just about swing it. Except for the poor Hawaiians, of course. 10am probably a bit too early for the Super Bowl luau… Still can’t see it happening though…

Posted by Nick | Report as abusive

My Comments are on my blog but I would be highly upset if the NFL moved the SuperBowl to London.

Posted by killercapital | Report as abusive

no i could never see the super bowl coming to London ! there would have to be strippers on as well , to give us Brits something to watch during the far to many stops and time outs , as for us playing an immitation game called Rugby dont forget Mr Longshot the USA was only on its 5th president when rugby was started xx

Posted by martin | Report as abusive

Amsterdam Admirals for life

Posted by jb | Report as abusive