No, George Osborne, Wembley Shouldn't Be Home to an NFL Team

It won't provide a "huge boost to London", it'll just mean more shitty beer adverts.

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23 October 2014, 11:41am

The opening ceremony at Wembley before a 2010 game between Denver and San Francisco (Photo via)

Picture the scene: fighter jets race overhead, spraying red, white and blue into the sky. A sequined marching band the size of Luxembourg's entire naval force parades onto the pitch. A load of human rhinos in oversized shoulder pads rush past them, waving to God / nothing in particular and throwing imaginary touchdowns to invisible men.

The camera pans to a crowd decked out in North Face jackets and Stone Island beanies, clutching flasks of Tetley's and screaming, "Fuck off, you wankaahs!" at the top of their tobacco-scarred lungs.

This could be a reality if George Osborne gets his way. Yesterday, the Chancellor announced that he wants to bring the NFL to London, pledging full government support for moves that could see a team based permanently at Wembley Stadium. This, for a number of reasons, is not a very good idea.

The past few years have seen an increasing number of NFL games held in the UK. I happened to be at Wembley around the time the last one was on, and it wasn't something I - or, I'd imagine, the majority of the British population - would want to see become a regular fixture in the British sporting calendar.

I'm aware the UK has hardly adopted a strong-arm approach to the creeping tide of consumerism, but this was a step too far: you could hardly move for all the promotional stands and £30 branded visors. It was too overbearing, too garish - there was far more dry ice and pyro than any Saturday afternoon has ever conceivably needed.

Mind you, some British people appear to enjoy all that - 83,436 of them apparently turned up to the game I got caught up in, which must seem encouraging for Osborne. However, that number is presumably so high because the NFL isn't a permanent fixture. Going to games is a novelty, and if prices stay at £100 a ticket it's likely to stay that way. Not to mention the fact that the advertising-friendly, stop-start nature of the game is completely at odds with how we enjoy sports in this country (angrily, sullenly, impatiently), and therefore unlikely to recruit many new fans.

So Osborne's vision of people flocking week on week to stadiums, providing a "huge boost for London", is more than a little optimistic - especially as we have no affiliation to any of the teams playing, bar maybe hearing their name mentioned one time in an episode of It's Always Sunny, or whatever. Gorgeous George isn't talking about promoting British American Football; this is going to be a US "outpost". In other words, one of America's shittiest teams is going to be exiled over here, then we'll be expected to hand over a week's worth of rent to watch them get completely stoved in every weekend.

The NFL's London street party in September of this year (Photo by Thomas Hjelm)

None of this, I'm sure, is on Osborne's mind. He seems to have completely embraced the sport, going as far as to suggest "God Save the Queen" be played alongside the "Star Spangled Banner" ahead of games.

Besides the misplaced confidence and incredible short-sightedness, it's also a pretty cruel move. British players of basketball (the only truly great American sport) said they had been "abandoned" by the last Olympic and Paralympic investment review. Yet, when it comes to getting the NFL to the UK, Osborne promises: "Anything the government can do to make this happen, we will do."

What he means by that is unclear, but one thing's a certainty: much of whatever cash ends up being generated isn't going to benefit Britain, or provide a "huge boost for London". Like overseas investment into the British housing market - for all its promises of improving life for the common man - there's no realistic dividends to be expected by the average citizen. Instead, like with all this stuff, the money will stay up the top.

Of course, that doesn't seem to worry much of the Conservative party. Where Boris Johnson defends £2,800-per-month flats as the new face of Britain's "affordable housing", George Osborne expects us to believe that £100 tickets and a raft of Coors Lite billboards is somehow going to be of use to anyone other than the stadium owners and NFL bosses.

There are also all the logistical issues to be taken into account. Convincing teams to fly over the Atlantic every game, for instance (and the environmental implications that entails). Or what exactly happens when the UK's audience of American football fans, broke by the third Wembley game, decide to just stream it online for free.

Mind you, Osborne's recent history suggests he's not always that adept at thinking things through.

@AllHorne

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