x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Upon second thought on the NFL Wembley game...

The NFL believed it was exporting an attractive game to England but the 49ers are 1-5 down and the Broncos are 2-5.

The NFL believed it was exporting an attractive game to England for its annual clash on the turf of Wembley Stadium.

The San Francisco 49ers were favoured to win the NFC West. Their coach, the former head-hunting linebacker Mike Singletary, is a volatile character, flashing stares that might turn the frozen expressions of the guards at Buckingham Palace into wide-eyed alarm.

The Denver Broncos, with up-and-coming coach Josh McDaniels, were expected to contend in the AFC West behind dynamic quarterback Kyle Orton.

And even if he did nothing but hold a clipboard and look virtuous and well-muscled, the Broncos also would be sending to London Tim Tebow, the wildly popular rookie and the back-up to Orton's back-up, but a college football hero of such notoriety that his Broncos jersey was among the league's hottest sellers even before he played his first game.

Yes, NFL schedule-makers reckoned, 49ers and Broncos, an attracting pairing indeed.


The 49ers are 1-5, having just lost to previously winless Carolina. The Broncos are 2-5. By kick-off, some British tabloid is sure to report that the Broncos did not fly to London until Thursday because they needed time to help players recover from the shock of a 59-14 beatdown by Oakland.

The Britons might still get a jolly good show in the fourth NFL fixture at Wembley. (Mexico City was the setting for a 1996 game, and the Buffalo Bills play once per annum in nearby Toronto.)

Both teams might enjoy their getaways from antsy home bases. In Denver, ire is being directed at McDaniels, who shrugged it off and said, "That's the occupation that I chose. It's part of the deal."

The 49ers fortuitously scheduled their trans-Atlantic flight directly from last Sunday's debacle in North Carolina, avoiding a descent into censure back on the west coast. But perhaps nobody back home would have bothered them, what with the baseball Giants monopolising attention in the World Series.

Roger Goodell, the NFL commissioner, is so eager to ply the Britons with American football that he considered scheduling two games in the UK this season and spoke in recent days of placing a franchise there permanently.

The entire endeavour is all about marketing. Spreading the fan base. The league will never go all NBA, extending its tentacles to the corners of the globe. If nothing else, the word futbol is already taken.

As long as this game continues to draw around 80,000 fans - some of whom even "tailgate" in the car park before the game - it may not matter if they know the difference between good teams or bad.