Recently, I spent a short weekend in London. I arrived on a Saturday morning and left on a Monday morning. It was a whirlwind trip but action-packed. During this brief visit I attended two separate sporting events. The first was the Arsenal v. Tottenham match at Emirates Stadium on September 28th. The second was the Dolphins v. Raiders game at Wembley Stadium on September 29th. What a weekend! I spent 48 hours in London and saw two amazing events.
Since that trip friends and family have asked me, “How was London?” The obvious answer would be “Awesome!” But in all honesty it was more than that. It was truly unique because of the two sporting events I attended. The experience of each was definitely “bucket list worthy”.Yet each was so different from the other. Below are some of my observations:
Arsenal vs. Tottenham
Saturday, September 27 at 5:30pm
1 – 1 draw
- I felt it unusual that kick-off was at 5:30pm. Sounds great for the family to attend but I didn’t see too many families in attendance.
- As I entered the seating bowl 30 minutes before kick-off the seats were empty. The majority of fans are either still outside the stadium or in the concourse. After some time I realized that this was due to the fact that alcohol is not permitted in the seating area.
- There was a place on the concourse for sports betting. I definitely did a double take on that one.
- Tottenham fans were seated in four clearly defined seating sections in one of the lower-level corners. The four sections were protected by barricades and about 50 police officers in bright yellow jackets.
- During halftime the concession stands sell alcohol for 15 minutes. As soon as the 15 minutes are up sales are cut off. It doesn’t matter who is left in line.
- Tottenham was the first to score in the 56th minute. WOW…I have NEVER seen such celebration amongst fans. Those four sections would have challenged the Chiefs/Seahawks fans for the decibel record.
- Arsenal tied the game in the 75th minute and the fan celebration was also a spectacle to see.
- I knew that soccer fans across the globe sing and chant throughout the game but seeing and hearing it in person was amazing. And impressive that they all knew where and when to properly insert the profanities.
- I don’t recall seeing any form of in-game entertainment beyond the Arsenal mascot (Gunnersaurus Rex) being present when the players were being introduced.
- Overall that atmosphere was intense. You did not want to look down or miss a minute of the match. You could feel that all fans around you were intensely focused on the game. This was not a place to be social and casual.
Dolphins vs. Raiders
Sunday, September 28 at 6:00pm
Dolphins won 38-14
- Fans started congregating around Wembley Stadium in the morning. By 1pm the area around Wembley Stadium was crowded and jumping with excitement.
- The NFL had constructed some of the largest temporary merchandise tents I have ever seen. At times there were easily 500 people in line to purchase merchandise. Cha-ching!
- The Budweiser Tailgate area was Wembley’s equivalent of tailgating area (not many people drive to the game). Thousands of fans congregated there for hours purchasing food & drinks and listening to music. It felt like a large beer garden with a wide variety of NFL jerseys.
- This was a Raiders home game so Raider Nation made its presence known. Many of the well-known fans who “dress up” made the trip to London and must have posed for hundreds of pictures with fans. The Raiderettes were also making their rounds taking pictures with fans and performing some dance routines.
- Raiders and Dolphins apparel dominated the day. However, there was a wide variety of other NFL gear present. I felt there was a strong presence of Bears’ apparel.
- It is impossible for a fan to get from one level of Wembley Stadium to another. If physically cannot be done unless you have credentials and patience. As you enter the stadium you are funneled to your respective level. There is no ability to go from the upper level to the lower level.
- At 5pm (1 hour before kickoff) fans were headed to the stadium. They didn’t want to miss the pre-game festivities and Def Leppard performance.
- There was no entertainment at halftime. Only the ground crew came out to repair divots on the field. I was a little surprised but didn’t feel the lack of halftime entertainment took away from the experience.
- The Dolphins were in control of the game and fans started to leave the stadium at the end of the 3rd quarter.
At the Arsenal game I experienced the pinnacle of fandom and tradition. It was intense and I am thankful Arsenal did not lose. On the other hand, the NFL game was an event and a spectacle. I have never attended a Super Bowl but I think that is what it would feel like. The excitement of fans at Wembley made the event that much more exciting for me.
Two quick days in London. Two memorable events.