Record London house prices stoke bubble fears
The NFL has returned to London with the Vikings and Steelers set to meet at Wembley Stadium on Sept. 29. But the league has been featuring its product abroad for decades. Lefteris Pitarakis, AP Last Slide Next Slide Still, growth for the game at the grass-roots level at the field level does nevertheless appear to be taking place in the U.K. “It’s an upward trajectory in terms of participation,” says Andy Fuller, the director for student football at the British American Football Association, the national governing body for the sport here. BAFA’s Fuller says that there has been “rapid and tremendous growth within the higher education sector” with a full 76 college teams now competing and what he called a “tranche more” ready to launch for the 2014 and 2015 season. In 2008, there were 42 teams playing college football in the U.K. But to misquote Shakespeare, there are more things between heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your desire to see football matches played in Britain, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. “No other sport will ever be as big as soccer as it is part of the psyche of the country, ” says Lawrence Vos, a British-based corporate brand manager and NFL blogger. “I think we can sustain a long-term franchise in London but they would need to win early,” says Vos, referring to the oft-touted idea that the capital city may one day host a permanent NFL franchise. Vos’ local team, the University of Birmingham Lions, were crowned BUCS American Football National Champions in April, but of the four NFL teams playing in London this fall, only the 49ers have managed to win a game this season. NFL EXEC: London getting ‘huge game’ of winless teams “I will be there on Sunday for the Steelers-Vikings game, but I would much rather be there to root for an NFL team that is based in the U.K. The fans that go to Wembley support all 32 teams so it’s always a bit of a weird atmosphere,” Vos said. Ahead of that, on Saturday, Londoners will be presented with the full basket of goods that the NFL has to offer when the central shopping street of of Regent Street will be closed for traffic, giving way to an NFL block party replete with “interactive NFL content, team zones, music and entertainment, cheerleader performances” and more. It might prove to be a cultural awakening for some, a reminder of good times for others. “You want to know when I fell in love with American football?” says Fuller, the British MP, recounting his days aboard that greyhound bus.
Both are sellouts, and two matches could become three as soon as 2014. Sporadic chatter about the merits of a British franchise has swollen in energy and noise. You hear it on popular US sports websites such as Grantland and Deadspin, in mainstream media titles including US Today even among the players. In between downs and downtime at his team’s plush Hertfordshire hotel, the Vikings safety Harrison Smith admits that a “bunch of us have been talking about it”. When you suggest to Smith the towering obstacles facing a NFL London team from tax codes and time zones to the brutal logistics of transporting so much muscle and machinery over the ocean and back he does not demur. “But there’s always a way to do it, especially in today’s world,” he says. “The truth of it is this: as fun as it is to play football, it’s a business. If there is an opportunity to make money there will be a franchise here.” And money and opportunity are driving the NFL’s foray eastward. American football is America’s game, not the world’s. A European franchise would not only put down new roots but provide additional revenue from TV rights and shirt sales. There are other reasons why the NFL is flirting with the UK. As a nation we gorge on sport, but not usually on Sunday nights between 6pm and midnight when most NFL matches are played. There is the shotgun-wedding legacy of the 80s when the NFL’s popularity soared due to Channel 4’s coverage.
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London Police Use Super Recognizers to Fight Crime
Several years ago, for example, London police were on the lookout for a burglar wanted for nine robberies. About a month after seeing the burglar’s picture, Hyland and two colleagues were stuck in traffic. “I looked up and noticed this guy coming out of a university and knew it was him,” Hyland recalled, adding that neither of his colleagues recognized the burglar. Hyland arrested the suspect, who confessed after questioning. “If I’ve met someone before and see them again, I’ll usually know where I know them from, even if I can’t remember their name,” he said. How does Hyland do it? Nobody knows. But since 2011, about 200 London police officers have been recruited to an elite squad of super recognizers. Officials say they have tripled the number of criminal suspects identified from surveillance photos or on the street each week, and even helped prevent some crimes like muggings, drug deals and assaults. “When we have an image of an unidentified criminal, I know exactly who to ask instead of sending it out to everyone and getting a bunch of false leads,” said Mick Neville, Detective Chief Inspector at Scotland Yard. Neville started the super recognizer unit after realizing the police had no system for identifying criminals based on images, unlike those for DNA and fingerprints. The unit proved especially valuable after riots hit London in the summer of 2011. After the violence, Scotland Yard combed through hundreds of hours of surveillance video. So far, there have been nearly 5,000 arrests; around 4,000 of those were based on police identifications of suspects from video images.