Dignitaries descend on London for pre-game events

(Note: Erin Casey from the NFL Events department is one of a handful of NFL employees who arrived in England more than a week before the annual International Series game on Oct. 25 between the New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Erin will file a series of blog updates this week.)

LONDON — With only four days remaining until the New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers face each other at Wembley Stadium, it is easy to tell the game is near. The NFL offices at the Landmark Hotel are busy from early in the morning until late at night. Bucs cheerleaders are roaming the hallways, and league executives and assorted team owners have arrived for the Global Sports Summit, which takes place on Friday.

At the Summit, leaders in sport from around the world come together to discuss a variety of topics, such as player salary caps, sponsor partnerships and broadcast deals. The first panel of the day will include former Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren, as well as Fabio Capello, Andy Flower and Martin Johnson — head coaches of the English National football (soccer), cricket and rugby teams, respectively. It will be the first time that all three English National coaches have sat together on a panel, which is a very exciting moment here. Also participating in the Summit will be Her Royal Highness Princess Anne, former heavyweight boxing champion Lennox Lewis, San Francisco 49ers owner John York, South Africa’s Minister of Sport and Recreation Makhenkesi Stofile, and NASCAR CEO Brian France, just to name a few.

Thursday evening, there will be a “Welcome to London” gala dinner for VIP Summit guests. Last year, this dinner was held at St. Paul’s Cathedral, where Princess Diana married Prince Charles. This year, it will be in the Locarno Suite at the Commonwealth Offices. Prior to dinner, Patriots owner Bob Kraft and Buccaneers owners Brian and Joel Glazer will join NFL commissioner Roger Goodell at a special reception at 10 Downing Street, where English Prime Minister Gordon Brownresides, and they will have a chance to sit at Winston Churchill‘s old desk.

Despite all of these activities, our primary focus is making sure things are ready for the teams. Tuesday morning, advance representatives from each club arrived. They will spend the rest of the week making their own final preparations. Wednesday, we painted a football field over the cricket “wicket” in London, and built a weight room for the Patriots to use after practice on Friday. We also put up goal posts and nets at Wembley, which is always a fun thing to see. While the Patriots reviewed our work at the cricket stadium, the Buccaneers’ focus was on their hotel and meeting room accommodations. Thursday, both teams will do walk-thrus at the stadium, followed by one last meeting at the airport, and then they’ll try to get some sleep before things really heat up Friday. As for us – we’re off to “scout” a dining location for the commissioner. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it!

Wish us luck at the gala dinner Thursday night, and look for a final update on Saturday.

— Erin Casey

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