(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 — It’s been a rainy day in London, and as result both the New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers decided not to hold their scheduled walkthroughs on the field at Wembley Stadium on Saturday.
Instead, the teams both used ballroom spaces at their respective hotels. Their operations staffs for both teams still went to the stadium, which is an important detail because soccer and NFL stadiums are set up very differently. Soccer facilities are meant to separate fans, so access for staff and coaches between public areas is not easy, and there are a number of operational differences. For example, most NFL teams ask for approximately 10 coaches to have a bird’s eye view of the field, so a “gantry” is constructed to accommodate them in the upper level. Soccer teams only have a couple of coaches, and they watch from field level.
The Patriots’ practice at The Oval cricket ground on Friday was successful. Approximately 100 media members turned out to interview coach Bill Belichick and QB Tom Brady before it began, which was a big coup for our public relations department. Later that evening, the Buccaneers arrived at Heathrow and had a smooth trip into Central London. After having a fantastic “Welcome to London” gala dinner on Thursday night, followed by an exciting conference yesterday, it felt really nice to have the team operations go well, too.
In a few moments we are departing headquarters to go to the residence of the U.S. Ambassador to England, Louis Sussman, where there will be a reception for the teams tonight. It won’t be a late evening since everyone is preparing for the game tomorrow, but it is always a pleasant one.
On Sunday, we will rise early and head to the stadium at around 9 a.m. in preparation for kickoff at 5 p.m. It must sound early, but there is so much to do on game day. Our first priority will be making sure that the tailgate party is ready for the commissioner to tour in the morning before opening for fans at 11 a.m. We are very excited about the tailgate party, which is a fan festival with a booth for each of our 32 teams, a 3-D cinema and a Hall of Fame museum. There will also be cheerleader performances and a raffle featuring autographed memorabilia from 26 teams. If it goes well, you may see something similar heading to cities in the U.S.
So wish us luck, and tune in tomorrow at 1 p.m. ET, when the anthems and pregame show from Wembley will be broadcast nationally in the U.S.
– Erin Casey