The Pittsburgh Steelers will be playing the Minnesota Vikings in London, England during the fourth week of the 2013 NFL season. Ben Roethlisberger was over in England last week to promote the game, which will be played in Wembley Stadium. For those who don’t know Wembley is the home of the England National Soccer team.
England has been hosting games over the past few years, but when will that overseas exposure grow farther? Dan Rooney, chairman of the Pittsburgh Steelers, is a former US Ambassador to Ireland. For years he has been hoping to get his team a regular season contest in the Irish Capital.
During a Fourth of July celebration Mr. Rooney was accompanied by Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Roethlisberger made his opinion clear on the possibility of playing in Ireland:
“I would like it for him,” said Roethlisberger when mined for his views. “That’s how much he means to me and I think everyone on our team would say that. Even if guys said they would never want to play in London, 100 percent of the guys on our team would say they would play in Dublin for Mr Rooney. I’d do it for him.”
Roethlisberger, and all other Steelers players, have lots of respect for Rooney. Rooney played a big part in getting the NFL where it is today. Pittsburgh Steelers tradition is well-known and as far as Roethlisberger is concerned that all starts with the guys at the top.
“People are what makes Pittsburgh special. Why the tradition, why the history, why the most Lombardi’s (trophies)? To me it starts at the top. That’s him, Art his son and his family. When he was in Pittsburgh, we saw him every day. After every game win or lose. For us to see our owner every day, whether out at practice, just working out and them saying ‘hi’ to you, sit down and have lunch with you, to me that speaks volumes.”
Last year during the college football season the Notre Dame Fighting Irish played Navy in Ireland. The game was played at Aviva Stadium in Dublin, Ireland. The stadium can hold over 51,000 people and Americans swarmed to the area to see the game in a new setting.
“I forgot about that game until last night. We were having dinner and people were saying there was millions of Notre Dame fans over here. But it doesn’t make as much (impact in the USA) as you’d think it would. Maybe it does to other people but not to me.”
The questions I would pose is how long will it take for the game to continue to grow? It is becoming a more well-known game throughout England due to their presence over the last few years. It will never take over soccer in a country that lives for their version of football, but if it can gain an attraction as it has in the United States it could become a loved sport in other countries as well.
Hopefully Dan Rooney will one day see his beloved Steelers play in Ireland, but as of now it still seems a long way off. There has been plenty of talk about a franchise starting up in England, but I believe the game will need to continue to grow overseas before that happens. Perhaps the best way to do that is to schedule games in more countries overseas.
Another important thing to remember is that as basketball has grown overseas the game has become bigger and better. More players are joining the NBA from different countries and that could be just what the future holds for the NFL.