A History Of American Football At Wembley

Tuesday, 24, September, 2013

This year the NFL takes a historic step in its international development when for the first time, two regular-season games will be played at Wembley Stadium.

On Sunday 29 September, the Minnesota Vikings host the Pittsburgh Steelers and a month later on 27 October the Jacksonville Jaguars face the San Francisco 49ers.

To mark the occasion we take a look back at the history of American Football under the famous arch.

The first game of American football played at Wembley wasn't in the 1980s as most people think, but was actually all the way back in 1952. The occasion was the United States Air Forces in Europe Football title game when the Fuerstenfeldbruck Eagles defeated the Burtonwood Bullets 27-6.

British interest in American football was sparked thirty years later in 1982 when Channel 4 started showing weekly NFL highlights, and it has continue to grow ever since.

In the summer of 1983 an English entrepreneur named John Marshall hired Wembley Stadium and brought the Minnesota Vikings and St. Louis Cardinals over to play a pre-season exhibition game called The Global Cup. Just over 30,000 fans turned out that day to witness a little piece of sporting history.

A year later another game took place at Wembley, but instead of two NFL teams, the United States Football League (USFL) sent over the Tampa Bay Bandits and the Philadelphia Stars for a post-season challenge match.

The NFL, looking to promote American football in other countries, took notice and in 1986 launched a series of pre-season exhibition games at Wembley called the ‘American Bowl’. The inaugural match saw defending Super Bowl champions Chicago Bears defeat the Dallas Cowboys 17-6 in front of a capacity crowd.

Following two more successful games at Wembley, the American Bowl was expanded to Tokyo in 1989 and since 1990, exhibition games have been played in Montreal, Berlin, Barcelona, Dublin, Mexico City, Toronto, Monterrey, Vancouver, Sydney and Osaka.

In 1990 The World League of American Football (WLAF) was founded with support from the NFL to play professional American football in North America and Europe. WLAF side the London Monarchs played their home games at Wembley during the 1991 and 1992 seasons and even won the first World Bowl at Wembley in 1991.

NFL American Bowl games continued at Wembley until 1993 when the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions drew 13-13 in front of 45,000. The drop in attendance was a clear indication that although the appetite remained, UK fans wanted something more than exhibition matches. It wouldn’t be long before the NFL took note.

The American Bowl continued in various countries until 2005 when NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced the league would replace it with the ‘International Series’. The big difference being that matches would be regular season games instead of exhibition games.

The first regular season NFL game played outside America was between the Arizona Cardinals and theSan Francisco 49ers. The Cardinals prevailed 31-14 in the 2005 at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City.

Since 2007 every International Series game has taken place at Wembley Stadium. The first NFL regular season game outside of North America was between New York Giants and Miami Dolphins, with the Giants emerging 13-10 victors.

Since 2007, the NFL has gone from strength to strength in the UK. Television ratings continue on an upwards trajectory and more young fans are getting into the sport as well as playing the game up and down the country.

The International Series games in London have grown over the years and now features an entire weekend of events for fans to enjoy, the highlight being the NFL’s huge Tailgate Party outside Wembley on the day of the game.

It has been confirmed that Wembley will continue to host International Series games until at least 2016 as the Jacksonville Jaguars team have committed to playing home games in London for the next four seasons.

A complete history of American Football at Wembley

1952: Fuerstenfeldbruck Eagles 27-6 Burtonwood Bullets (USAF In Europe Football Championships)

1983: Minnesota Vikings 28-10 St. Louis Cardinals (NFL Global Cup)

1984: Tampa Bay Bandits 21-24 Philadelphia Stars (USFL)

1986: Chicago Bears 17-6 Dallas Cowboys (NFL American Bowl)

1987: Los Angeles Rams 28-27 Denver Broncos (NFL American Bowl)

1988: Miami Dolphins 27-21 San Francisco 49ers (NFL American Bowl)

1989: Philadelphia Eagles 17-13 Cleveland Browns (NFL American Bowl)

1990: New Orleans Saints 17-10 Los Angeles Raiders (NFL American Bowl)

1991: New York/New Jersey Knights 18-22 London Monarchs (WLAF)

1991: Orlando Thunder 12-35 London Monarchs (WLAF)

1991: Montreal Machine 7-45 London Monarchs (WLAF)

1991: Raleigh-Durham Skyhawks 10-35 London Monarchs (WLAF)

1991: Barcelona Dragons 20-17 London Monarchs (WLAF)

1991: Barcelona Dragons 0-21 London Monarchs (WLAF)

1991: Buffalo Bills 17-13 Philadelphia Eagles (NFL American Bowl)

1992: New York/New Jersey Knights 20-26 London Monarchs (WLAF)

1992: Frankfurt Galaxy 31-28 London Monarchs (WLAF)

1992: Birmingham Fire 17-17 London Monarchs (WLAF)

1992: Barcelona Dragons 9-0 London Monarchs (WLAF)

1992: San Francisco 49ers 17-15 Washington Redskins (NFL American Bowl)

1993: Dallas Cowboys 13-13 Detroit Lions (NFL American Bowl)

2007: New York Giants 13-10 Miami Dolphins (NFL International Series)

2008: San Diego Chargers 32-37 New Orleans Saints (NFL International Series)

2009: New England Patriots 35-7 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (NFL International Series)

2010: Denver Broncos 16-24 San Francisco 49ers (NFL International Series)

2011: Chicago Bears 24-18 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (NFL International Series)

2012: New England Patriots 45-7 St. Louis Rams (NFL International Series)