The Lockout – A View From Across the Pond


Frustration (n): The feeling of helplessness and annoyance over the actions of people beyond your control.

Yes, that seems about right. And if that adequately describes how Eagles fans in the United States are feeling right now, just think how much worse it must be for football fans in other parts of the world, completely remote from all the nonsense going on between the NFL owners and the PFA.

Sitting in your home in Philadelphia or elsewhere in America, you can tune in to all the sports news on TV, read about the various legal aspects in newspapers or magazines and contribute your own opinions through local talk radio. In Britain (you know, the little country your president recently visited and then talked over our national anthem), we get very little information. The newspaper I buy barely reports the Superbowl each year and has mentioned nothing about a lockout in its soccer-obsessed pages any time in the past three months. The same is true of the television channels, including the dedicated sports news one. Only the internet is keeping me reasonably informed. Thank goodness for Inside the Iggles.

So, what have we in the UK been told? Well, essentially that a bunch of very rich sports stars see that the owners are getting a lot of money from exploiting their talents, so they want a bigger share of this cash. OK, so I know that what I’ve said is a hideous generalisation and that there’s a whole load of second and third string players spilling blood and tearing cartilage every week for our entertainment and they get a meagre pittance compared to those aforementioned big-name stars. So I do have some sympathy, but I want my football, so SORT IT!

Here in Britain, we have absolutely no control over what’s going on. We fans have very little voice and therefore no way to communicate to the people in power. All we have is the NFLUK website, where relevant news items are reprinted and a fans’ forum allows us to express our displeasure. But even that forum has very few contributions relating to the lockout. British sang froid and an attitude of “wait and see” run through these comments, along with a complete failure to understand the subtleties of the American legal system.

Some fans are worried because they have booked trips to see games in the US, but aside from that, the biggest concern is whether the International Series game will actually happen. Scheduled for 24 October, the Chicago Bears will “host” the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Wembley Stadium yet whereas last year I had bought my tickets for the IS game by February, this year, the tickets aren’t even on sale. We’ve been told that the prices are being held at the same level as last year, despite a rise in the rate of sales tax, but there’s still no indication about when we can buy them.

The NFL has said that if the strike continues beyond 1 August, the game’s venue will revert to Chicago. So will the hotel I’ve booked in London for two nights go empty? Not on your life. If I can’t go see the football with my son-in-law, I’ll go take in a London show with my wife. Problem solved. And, to be honest, if there isn’t an agreement by 1 August, any game that does take place will be second rate, with poor plays, unfit and injury-prone players and disjointed teams. I wouldn’t want to watch it anyway. It would remind me too much of last year’s Broncos @ 49ers game.

But, for the most part, the feeling on this side of the Atlantic is to wait and see what happens. There’s nothing we can do to influence matters, so we just need to let matters pass. If an agreement is reached, we’ll be happy, but if it is not, then it’ll mean massive disappointment for the many fans here. More importantly for the NFL, the contracts for television coverage in the UK will be over at the end of this season and they may not be renewed, especially as casual fans drop off after a non-season. That is likely to result in the stalling of the development of football in this and other countries, something that will cost the NFL in the short term, considering their declared aim of making football into a genuine global sport.