Oct 26, 2014; London, UNITED KINGDOM; General view of Wembley Stadium during the NFL International Series game between the Detroit Lions and the Atlanta Falcons. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
The Atlanta Falcons were apart of one of the most exciting regular season games to be played outside of the United States in last season’s 22-21 loss to the Detroit Lions. Should the Falcons ever return to London?
The Falcons had to give up a home game in Atlanta to make the trip, and rather than the sea of red that normally fills the Georgia Dome, they saw a multicolored Wembley Stadium with all 32 teams represented.
While giving up home field advantage favors the road team, the trip to London does bring with it plenty of opportunities to grow the fan base overseas.
I was in London the entire week and experienced each event NFL UK set up for the International Series. The day before the game, the NFL fan rally was held in Trafalgar Square — this is an annual event before one of the UK games.
Trafalgar Square, home of Nelson’s Column and next to the National Gallery, is one of London’s most famous landmarks. On this day though, it was turned into an NFL party.
Oct 25, 2014; London UNITED KINGDOM; Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff and coach Mike Smith and players Osi Umenyiora (50) and Steven Jackson (39) and quarterback Matt Ryan (2) on stage at the NFL Fan Rally at Trafalgar Square in advance of the International Series game between the Detroit Lions and the Falcons. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
The square was filled with fan activities, including competitions, merchandise stands and an opportunity to catch a glimpse of the Lombardi Trophy. The main attraction was the stage, which featured music, performances from the cheerleaders and importantly, interviews with the stars of the Falcons and Lions.
Oct 25, 2014; London UNITED KINGDOM; Atlanta Falcons inflatable logo and jersey and words “Rise Up” at the NFL Fan Rally at Trafalgar Square in advance of the International Series game between the Detroit Lions and the Falcons. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
A few Falcons players, including Matt Ryan and Steven Jackson, as well as former head coach Mike Smith and GM Thomas Dimitroff were on stage, while the rest of the roster lined up on the Trafalgar Square steps opposite.
Most fans in attendance were already loyal to their favorite teams, and just about every team’s jersey was being sported.
Anyone unsure though would surely have left London as a Falcon. NFL UK made a huge effort in making the British capital a home away from home for Atlanta, with Falcons’ flags handed out to fans, as well as giant “Rise Up” banner with inflatable Falcons logos.
Falcons owner Arthur Blank was very positive about the experience in London, per Peter Carline of the Daily Mail:
"“We as a league could not be more enthusiastic about the response we have got from the fans in London. It’s been extraordinary. There has not been one owner I have spoken to who has not come back being very enthusiastic about the atmosphere, the way they were treated, the hospitality and the facilities,” Blank said."
The Falcons were received very well in London. Although the event was more of a celebration of the NFL being played in the UK, Atlanta was treated as the home team throughout the process.
Following the fan rally, the teams headed back to the hotel before the game on Sunday.
Next: The game