2018 – The Year Wembley Came Alive as an NFL Venue
Wembley has always been a fantastic place to watch sport, it has everything the modern venue could possibly need for fans, media and with some minor tweaks, players too. As a veteran of 16 NFL Games in the UK now, from my perspective I can safely say 2018 marked a turning point in its place as an NFL venue.
Two attendance records for games at Wembley were set during this season. The Weeks 7 & 8 games were the best attended games that week, and not by a small amount. There were about 10,000 more fans at Wembley than there were in the Coliseum to see the Rams and Green Bay. The Chargers designated home game in week 7 attracted more fans than their first three home games combined! In fact, the Wembley attendance of 84,301 represented a 332% increase on their average attendance.
Numbers aside though, 2018 was the first time I recall Wembley being Loud, and not just a fits and starts, but loud, consistently loud. Causing pre-snap penalties, delay of game penalties, forcing coaches to take last second timeouts. Fans of all the teams really brought the noise this time round, with a special mention for the 12s who were biblically loud. I had the opportunity to speak to several fans who had travelled from America and they were taken aback by the noise the fans knowledge and our zeal for the sport. The Crowd have never felt so in tune with the ebb and flow of NFL Football and it showed, so Congratulations to everyone who attended who screamed for their team.
One of Wembley’s biggest criticisms when compared to the likes of Twickenham was that its atmosphere wasn’t quite on par with the home of Rugby, where steep sides create walls of noise. That changed in 2018.
London is doubtlessly going to be a permanent fixture on the NFL for a long time.
On a side note, I’m calling some of the fixtures for next year! 4 games has been confirmed and I think the Raiders, who are without a permanent home in 2019 will be back for one maybe two games. I think the Chargers will be back too, they will have seen 85000 crowds and decide it looks like a sensible business decision. The Chargers have a matchup with the NFC North and the Packers scheduled for 2019, that feels like a game that needs 85000 fans not 25000.
Do you have any 2019 International Series Predictions?