The NFL has been attracting British fans for over 10 years. When the league brings teams over here, stadiums sell out every year well in advance.
What you don’t know is that thousands every week gather in one place: Hippodrome casino in Leicester Square.
Known for large gaming spaces, an underground casino with caged dancers and a steak restaurant, it’s the only place that shows every single NFL game on Sunday afternoons.
“It’s almost like a family”, said hardcore fan Nick Marcenaro. Find out why he loves going regularly.
Former players often show up: this week we saw ex-New York Giants’ defensive end Osi Umenyiora and ex-Houston Texans cornerback Jason Bell, who both work for the BBC as analysts.
The atmosphere is very peculiar, different from a traditional English pub with football or F1.
It’s very relaxed but it’s not quiet either, and often you get people exchanging banter. “The camaraderie between fans makes it a lot fun”, says Rachel Joseph, a regular customer.
The experience also includes American comfort food such as hot wings and nachos.
I spoke with Wade McElwain, TV producer, comedian and now manager of the “NFL at Hippodrome”, who was keen to tell me how it all began.
It is often argued that there aren’t enough fans in the London market for the NFL. While stadiums are always full, it is legitimate to wonder whether there is a regular following.
Going to a sports bar weekly proves commitment to a team or at least the sport in general.
How many people actually show up to watch the games at Hippodrome every Sunday? McElwain talks about attendance, and the numbers are bigger than you think.
Last month NFL fans in the UK were shocked by the death of former Sky Sports presenter Kevin Cadle. The broadcaster, who died at age 62, was a staple of the NFL in London coverage since the beginning.
McElwain discussed future projects lined up, including a fundraiser with Cadle’s foundation for British students and young people.
He also confirmed that the Casino will have a Super Bowl party. More details in this clip.
The casino is renowned for its diverse and themed gambling spaces – the basement floor features a Wild West styled Yahtzee table – and high-tech appliances. Since they show the games, one would assume that it is possible to bet on them.
Yet, when asked about, both staff and fans were still unsure about it.
Can you actually bet on NFL matchups? McElwain reveals how to do so.
Words: Omar Salvi | Subbing: Reuben Pinder
Pictures, in order: http://www.dodlive.mil/2016/02/04/how-army-research-is-combating-concussions-in-the-nfl/
Music: YouTube Audio Library — [No Copyright Music] Bay Breeze – FortyThr33
YouTube Audio Library –[No Copyright Music] Say Good Night – Joakim Karud