That NFL Wembley Experience

On Sunday I took a trip to Wembley to watch the NFL game between the San Diego Chargers and the New Orleans Saints. I made some observations about the experience.

Travelling and London
The train has something called a "Shhh … Quiet Zone", a carriage for those who dislike loud noises – I know because we sat in it. Admittedly accidentally. This zone of peace instructs people to not use their headphones (which they do anyway) and to not use their mobile phones (which they do anyway). It doesn’t instruct people to keep their dreadful Boring Bicycling Twats Club Of Great Britain (group name extrapolated based on incessant drivel) conversation to a minimum (i.e. the silent minimum):

"Have you met Melvin?"
"Hello Melvin! Where’s Tom?"
"Oh Tom’s texted to say he’s missed the train!"
"Oh no! Tom’s missed the train!"
"That’s right, he’s missed the train."
"So should we wait for Tom or cycle to Greenwich to meet Sally and Tristan?"
"I think we should wait and then make Tom buy lunch."
"Oh spiffy! Fancy Tom missing the train."
"The train."
"The train."
"So where’s your bike?"
"Back there where you put the bikes."
"Mine too!"
"Tom’s bike’s not there."

And the zone has no instruction for making parents of screaming children dangle them out of the window to deaden the noise either. Not that anyone would pay any attention even if they did.

Once you’re in London you travel by Tube if you want to get anywhere, stay dry, and don’t mind giving oxygen a miss for half an hour or so. If you’re after a recession-proof business then the London tissue industry or the inventors of an anti-tar, one-piece suit might be worth investing the last of your life’s savings in. A day in London travelling on the Tube coats the insides of your nostrils with a black, sticky crud and must be blown out and examined at first hand to truly appreciate its vileness. One can only conclude that most Londoners are, themselves, lined with this substance. This may make Londoners more flammable than normal people or, conversely, it may be impossible to burn one at all.

Tests should be carried out. Now.

The NFL Tailgate Party
I’d never been to a tailgate party before but now I know … a tailgate party is a giant circle of queues, snaking around and devouring one another’s tail. People queue to buy merchandise and reward themselves for tolerating that hour by queueing to buy a drink that they drink while in the queue for food which they consume in the static line for the toilet which gives them time to think about buying another drink or some other piece of merchandise they forgot and so it goes on.

In emails received prior to the tailgate party we were informed that beer would be substantially cheaper than inside the stadium! Ten percent off the stadium price is not substantially cheaper when you’re still paying about sixty percent higher prices than going to a pub in a normal city not called Rip Off London. The beer was cold though so well done for that.

After talking to a group of New Orleans supporters who’d flown over to Europe to take in the game I discovered that English people are apparently friendlier than French people. I was shocked! Shocked!

There were many happy faces at the tailgate party and it wasn’t because the cheerleaders were there briefly – it wasn’t just because the cheerleaders were there briefly – but rather down to a little trick practised by Americans for hundreds of years when dealing with people they consider savages: give them pretty beads!


Watching an American Football game in Wembley is far more enjoyable than watching a standard football game in Wembley and the reason for this is a single word of only four letters: beer. That’s right. You can take beer to your seat. Screw you Football Assocation.

We paid extra to sit in the Club Wembley section. We were seated in the corner just above where the Chargers came out onto the field; it was a great view. What’s the difference between Club Wembley and Not Club Wembley?

  • Queues – barely any. Getting into and out of the stadium was quick, going to the toilet was quick, buying food, drink, and programmes was quick. Hooray!
  • Seats – your bottom is caressed by padded seats while you sit and watch the game. You have approximately eight whole millimetres more leg room. And a cup holder too! Bliss.
  • That’s All – yes, that’s all.

For the reduced queues alone, Club Wembley is worth every penny.

Wembley has a policy of "no professional cameras" allowed. Like me, you may be wondering just what the hell a professional camera is. Is it a camera that can no longer compete in the Camera Olympics because it’s given up its day job as a butcher? Apparently not. Is it a camera that isn’t also a phone? No, because the policy states that small cameras are allowed. Just no professional ones. Could a steward or someone you phone up tell you? No, because they don’t know either.

I took my Canon EOS 350D DSLR with a small 50mm prime lens with me anyway. The person patting me down checking for concealed pies told me that if I used my camera in the stadium then I’d be forced to delete the pictures, possibly under threat of pitchforking. Oh. However, next to me another gentleman getting patted down by another steward was permitted to enter without any warning despite carrying a high end Nikon with a large – probably 300mm telephoto – lens attached. He snapped away merrily inside the stadium. So did I. However, he probably didn’t forget to alter the ISO setting and set aperture priority on and then cry inside when he got home and realised that the camera had decided that "there won’t be much blurring with a shutter speed of a fifteenth of a second".

Dear Wembley, your camera policy sucks. It doesn’t matter if the camera is "professional" or if the lens is "professional", whatever that means anyway. If the person holding the camera is a rank amateur and potentially mildly drunk then his photos from some distant tier of the stadium will not ever infringe upon the pitchside photographers’ God-given rights to earn money from their far superior pictures. P.S. I thought your chicken balti pie was surprisingly nice.

New Orleans Saints versus the San Diego Chargers
A game of American Football was played! Oh yes!

Saints vs Chargers
A little fourth quarter action as the Chargers try (and fail) to score inside the final two minutes of the game.
Pictured: Chargers QB Philip Rivers throws the ball in the direction of Antonio Gates while the Saints and Hover Robot Killotron 4000XL try to defend.

69 total points. Snigger.

Hundreds of yards of passing offense on both sides.

A deliberate safety.

A Hail Mary pass in the last second that could have changed everything and made laughing at all those who’d left a few minutes early all the sweeter.

Effing awesome.

Author: Mark

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  1. If you ever get a chance to come to the states and check out collegiate football, by all means, do so. ESPECIALLY if you happen to be in the southeastern U.S. College football is a religion down here and we give it as much pomp and circumstance as such.

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  2. I too was at this game and was researching the tailgate (i’ll think I’ll skip it)

    I love the irony of using a picture with an ad for a Rebel XTi (400d) at an event that likes to ban them.

    See you for the Pats/Buccs game!

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  3. Block 231 for the game this year and I’ll still be checking out the Tailgate party (if they have one again (they’d be mad not to you with that queue for merchandising)) because I can’t let the possibility of more shiny beads pass me by.

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  4. Nice summary – sounds like fun except for the "tailgate".

    A real tailgate is unscripted – put 50,000 vehicles in a parking lot four or five hours before kickoff, lower the tailgates of the pickup trucks (hence the name), take out the BBQ grills and coolers, and consume beer, whiskey, sausage, chicken, beef, and other protein in about 4 times the normal quantity.

    If you’re at the late game, bring a battery powered TV to watch the early one while you do all the above.

    Except for the outlandish parking fee, it’s all free – you bring it in the truck. Here in New England, our stadium lots are surrounded by woods which eliminates the need to line up (queue) for the pisser. In the winter, bring firewood and an awning to keep out of the snow.

    You should cross the pond and try it sometime. I recommend Green Bay in December for the true NFL experience. They have the friendliest fans. Philly has the nastiest – ask any Philadelphian.

    Even better – go to a college game. Same atmosphere, but on a pastoral campus and the women are prettier and more numerous.

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