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NFL Tackles Europe

  • Suzanne Chislett

Two years after American football's NFL broke down international boundaries by playing a regular season game in Mexico City, the sport has spread its wings across the ocean. On Sunday, the Miami Dolphins battled the New York Giants in London. While the on-field result went against the Dolphins, who lost 13-10, the off-field impact of taking an American showpiece to Europe could have major implications for the future of the sport. Suzanne Chislett reports from the British capital.

There were more than a million requests for tickets for the first regular season National Football League game to be played outside North America - and as the lucky 80,000 fans began crowding into London's Wembley Stadium, the Miami Dolphins and New York Giants took to the field to warm up.

The players arrived in London just two days earlier - but despite the lengthy transatlantic flights, it was straight down to training as they attempted to force their body-clocks to make the five hour jump forwards.

New York Giants Head Coach Tom Coughlin was determined to keep his team focused. He explained his purpose and goals. "Travel plans are not always as you would like them to be as evidenced today. So put a smile on your face and stay positive about it. We're here for one reason and one reason only -- that's to try to win a football game."

All 32 NFL franchise owners backed the move to take the game overseas during the regular season in a bid to raise the sport's profile.

H. Wayne Huizenga, franchise owner of the Dolphins, says it was a common-sense decision. "Like other leagues we all realize that the world is growing smaller and the need to be more global is more than it's ever been."

For the players, the chance to show off their skills to a new audience was too good an opportunity to pass up.

But Miami Dolphin Defensive End Jason Taylor pointed out while the game was about showing off the sport - it was not an exhibition. "It'll be highly competitive. It is the NFL as a whole for 60 minutes. It's something very different to what is normally shown here."

Many of the fans who watched the American footballers take to the field at the home of English soccer are already looking forward to next season's NFL visit.

One fan said, "I think it will help in the UK (because) obviously quite a few university teams play at the moment and it will make people more aware and stuff."

Another fan welcomes more. "We should have some more of it, definitely"

Yet, another fan found the game enjoyable and said, "It's great. I hope there's more. It's awesome. The fans are amazing."

The impact of this inaugural NFL regular season game in Europe is being closely monitored by many other sports. Already bosses of English Premier League soccer are said to be considering taking top teams around the world to boost their sport's profile.

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