Interest seems low in London, England

John Turner
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For Sunday’s NFL game between Patriots and Rams

When you think of London, England, you think of the Beatles, the Queen, London Bridge, Tower of London and football (soccer) – but not American football as they call it over here.

The Freak is in London this week, and so are the New England Patriots and St. Louis Rams for the annual NFL game at Wembley Stadium on Sunday.

The NFL has been doing this now for five years to promote American football on a more global basis, and they have targeted London as the way to achieve this goal. Has it been successful to date?

It depends who you listen to.

The first problem is the games usually feature one of the weaker NFL teams (Rams) against a better-known or a higher-profile team like the Patriots. The Freak talked to a number of people on the London subway, and they really don’t care about the NFL here. Some of them looked at me like I was talking a foreign language.

Also, in reading many of the sports sections of the London newspapers, there has been little to no mention of the game all week except an interview with Pats owner Robert Kraft, who was interested in buying Liverpool six years ago. Liverpool is one of the big British soccer teams.

With the locals here not seeing any coverage of this NFL game, how can the sport grow?

Yes, the game is a sellout every year, but many of them are corporate tickets. Unless they are transplanted North Americans, the crowd really does not get into the game as they have no personal ties to either team.

The Freak thinks if the NFL wants to grow the sport here they can’t keep sending teams like the Rams, Bucs (last year) and Jaguars (the next four years). Obviously, these teams are playing in the annual NFL international game because they do not sell out their home games, so their fans won’t become irate if they have one less home game. 

Could you imagine if the fans of the Packers lost a home game?

The stats say viewership is up over 154 per cent for Sunday games since 2006, and The Freak finds that hard to believe as the games don’t start to very late over here, and forget about trying to watch a Sunday or Monday night game as it wouldn’t start to 1:30 a.m. 

Even the most avid fans in North America might not stay up that late for these games, so one can’t imagine a passive fan from Britain doing so.

Finally, it will be interesting to see if the main British television networks will be carrying the game on Sunday. Hopefully they do because it will at least give The Freak a game to watch while over here on vacation, and at least get some fill of American football.


Stat of the week

The Cincinnati Bengals have lost nine straight prime-time games on television.

Pet peeve of the week

Being here in London there were no NFL games on regular television last Sunday, and The Freak had to watch the Giants-Redskins’ game on the Internet. Watching a small football going up and down the field, and waiting for the play to come up on the screen, was very painful and frustrating to say the least. But, at the same time, it was nice seeing “Manning to Victor Cruz for 77 yards. . . touchdown” late in the game.


The sure thing

It looks like the Packers are hitting their stride with two straight road wins, and now come home to Lambeau to take on the struggling Jaguars with no MJD. Don’t know about you, but this is the biggest lock of the season.

Arizona started the season 4-0, lost its last three games and faces San Fran in a key NFC West game on Monday night. The Cards’ big issues are they are down to their third-string running back, and their O-line gives up the most sacks in the league. This is a recipe for disaster against the 49ers. Take San Fran.

This was supposed to be the Panthers’ season, and the only thing it’s going to end up being is forgettable as Cam Newton is looking more and more like Vince Young with every passing week. It won’t get any easier this week in Chicago. The Bears’ D is arguably the best in the NFL, and will confuse Newton all afternoon. The Bears aren’t ready to hibernate yet, and win big over Carolina.

Don’t mortgage the house picks

If Detroit wants any hope of making the playoffs, they need to beat Seattle at home. The Stafford-to-Megatron combination has been non-existent all season, and it will finally get on track in the Motor City. Lions roll to a big win.

Not often do two teams meet that are both coming off a bye week, but this happens in the “Battle of the Birds” between the Falcons and Eagles. The Falcons are the only undefeated team left in the NFL, but this game means more for Philly as they need to keep pace with the Giants. The Eagles outplay the Falcons in this one.

Being in London, The Freak feels obligated in picking the Patriots over the Rams. Kraft said there will be 40,000 fans cheering for the Pats, so it will be like a home game. After all, it’s New England in England. Hope the Rams enjoyed their tea, biscuits and fish and chips as they are heading back to the United States with a loss.

Upset special

After watching the highlights of RGIII putting on a big show with his arms and legs against the Gmen, the Washington road show travels to Pittsburgh.

The Freak has been saying all year the Steelers’ D is old and slow, and it will really be exposed by RGIII on Sunday. 

In a close game, the Redskins win on a late field goal in front of Summerside football fans Goat, Jaker, Paulie, EI, Bucky, Frankie and Bagger, who are meeting up and making the trek down to Pittsburgh for the game.

Last week: 6-for-7.

Season: 33-for-49.

John Turner is a Summerside schoolteacher. His column appears every Saturday during the NFL season. Feel free to e-mail questions and comments to

Organizations: NFL, St. Louis Rams, New England Patriots Redskins Cincinnati Bengals Panthers Steelers

Geographic location: London, New England, Liverpool Wembley Stadium North America Britain Lambeau Pittsburgh Summerside Chicago Detroit Seattle United States Washington

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Recent comments

  • JayTee
    October 27, 2012 - 04:08

    Thing is, it's become too common place over here for the main media to get all excited about after 6 years of games. trust me football (soccer) is king, queen and crown prince (unfortunately). NFL is growing but it is still a minority sport. Yes people watch the games we do get on TV either live (I've stayed up for superbowls) or recorded to watch back in the week. You want to gauge the fans - look at the, oh and BAFL for the guys who play Oh - and talking to people on public transport is a no-no! No wonder you got no good answers ;)