The Americans landed at England’s rugby HQ and we went along to find out what all of the razzmatazz was about
Words: Tobias Gourlay Photos: Bob Martin, Sean Ryan, David Shopland
It’s a brisk October morning in south-west London and the NFL
has just blown into town.
London’s been putting on top-level American football since 2007, but this is Twickenham
’s first time as host venue. Christening the place, it’s the New York Giants and the Los Angeles Rams.
Before we dig out our hospitality game passes, we crash the tailgate party. Held in the car park outside the stadium, it’s a pre-match ritual for serious fans that features food trucks serving American staples like mac ‘n’ cheese and philly cheesesteaks, and fan activation activities that engage visitors in all things NFL. It’s also a chance for the day’s first Bud Light, as old pros chat amiably on stage about past glories and build some buzz for this afternoon’s historic game.
Arriving a little later than planned at our true destination inside the stadium, we find the Gold Hospitality Suite already purring with the sound of a welcome drinks reception. Our table hostess introduces us to the rest of our group and we sit down for lunch. On our seats, alongside the glossy match programme, there’s an NFL 101 booklet to help bring any rookies up to speed. The LA Rams cheerleaders, who bound into the room and light up the lull between courses, need less of an introduction.
After a walk around the pitch – another excellent anticipation-builder – it’s time to head up and out into the stands for the main event. Instead of the partisan crowds who dominate at, say, football matches, most people are here to celebrate the sport they love – and the fact they’ve got a rare chance to see it live – rather than any particular team. It makes for a hugely clubbable atmosphere, and there’s always someone on hand to explain the finer points of what’s going on.
Eventually the Giants overhaul the Rams and we return to our suite, where the bar’s reopened for another hour or so. On stage now, replacing the ex-players who’d bantered gently for us pre-game, there’s covers band Candy Apple Blue to send us off. At a time when the special relationship could be about to get rocky, a little bit of good-time American largesse still goes a long way to winning hearts and minds.
Gold packages were £475pp. They included: welcome drinks reception; four-course meal; complimentary bar; meet and greet with NFL cheerleaders; an appearance from an NFL legend; premium match ticket; post-match snacks; souvenir programme and gift; and commemorative VIP access pass.
This article was first published in Autumn 2016