Twickenham prepares for its NFL debut: mascots, merchandise and Craig David

Rugbys ultra-traditional spiritual home stages its first NFL match on Sunday New York Giants v LA Rams. Its going to be quite a culture shock

Gentile Twickenham wont have seen anything like this?

Theyve had Beyonc, Iron Maiden and 55,000 Jehovahs Witnesses but no, nothing quite like this. Walls have been knocked through, theres new branding, pyrotechnics, cheerleaders, an LED wall, supersized locker-rooms, road closures and Craig David doing a pre-game show (and hes usually chilling on a Sunday). Theres even a tailgate party in the car park.

A what?

Instead of the traditional middle-class tweed and champagne picnic scene, fans and locals can enjoy a US tradition outside the ground: an NFL-themed fan village from 9.30am, with bars, mascots, merchandise-buying opportunities, autographs from NFL alumni, on-stage cheerleaders and food.Lots of food.

Doesnt NFL belong at Wembley?

Jacksonville Jaguars beat the Indianapolis Colts 30-27 there earlier this month but the RFU did a deal last year with the NFL to add Twickenham to the London roster a minimum of three games over three years. From 2018 the new White Hart Lane joins the list too.


div class=”u-responsive-ratio”> Twickenham


figcaption class=”caption” caption–img caption caption–img” itemprop=”description”> New look: staff spray the Giants name on Twickenhams turf. Photograph: Tom Jenkins for the Guardian

What will the crowd be like?

80,125 watched the Rugby World Cup final there almost a year ago but different sight lines mean a reduced 75,000 capacity. Those with tickets will be part of history though: its the first non-rugby sporting event in Twickenhams 107-year history.

How are the stars feeling about it?

Good, on the whole. The Rams coach, Jeff Fisher, says his players have loved their week touring the city with mascot Rampage. I said to one of them, How was your day? He goes, I went to London. It was the coolest thing Ive ever seen. Im calling mom and dad to tell them this is a really cool place. Giants Victor Cruz said: Were so excited. We understand how momentous this game is, not only for the NFL but for the UK. Craig David said: I am hungry, passionate and making music that Im truly proud of and I want to deliver the music that people have been asking for. I am thrilled to be performing at Twickenham.

So whos going to win it?

Tough call. Giants star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr is a doubt after picking up an injury in their win over Baltimore. But the Rams have lost two in a row and need some momentum. This could be quite something.

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