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Vikings in London Then and Now

In August 1983, the Minnesota Vikings and St. Louis Cardinals met in London for the Global Cup.

The exhibition to open the clubs' preseason was the first American football game on European soil.

Other international exhibitions followed in years to come, including a trip to Sweden in 1988 by the Vikings and Bears, and Minnesota's 1993 trip to Germany to play the Bills. (The Vikings also ventured to Japan in 1994 to play the Chiefs).

The NFL's International Series of London Games (featuring regular-season contests) launched in 2007.

View photos of Vikings players from practice on Sept. 30 in London, England.

London hosted 30 games between 2007 and 2021. The Vikings-Saints game is the first of three this season. An additional contest is scheduled for Germany and Mexico this year.

The Vikings participated in the London Games in 2013 ("hosting" the Steelers) and 2017 ("visiting" the Browns).

Much has changed for teams over the years, from the size of their travel parties to the increased incorporation of sports science over the past few decades.

Here is a look at some comparisons for the Vikings in London between then — whether it was 1983, 2013 or 2017 — and now.

Travel schedules

1983 under Head Coach Bud Grant: The Vikings left training camp in Mankato and headed to the airport on Thursday, Aug. 4. Everyone made it, but defensive end Doug Martin's passport did not.

The travel party excluding Martin boarded a DC10 that had been chartered and departed MSP at 5:15 p.m. (CT) Thursday. The plane arrived at Gatwick airport Friday morning, and the team headed to Cumberland Hotel near Hyde Park. The team practiced Friday and then players were given per diem for dinner on their own/with loved ones who made the trip. Grant did not enforce curfew.

After his passport was delivered, Martin traveled commercially through Chicago and eventually arrived in London on the morning of the Aug. 6 game.

The game kicked off at 5:30 p.m. in London, and the team stayed overnight after the game before departing Sunday.

View photos of Vikings players on travel day as they leave Minnesota to take on the Saints in London on Oct. 2.

2013 under Head Coach Leslie Frazier: The team left Monday and arrived Tuesday.

The Vikings organization fully leaned into the experience by traveling the entire organization for a mixture of marketing and cultural experiences.

The Vikings and Steelers participated in a joint rally for fans, and Minnesota participated in a community event shortly after arriving. The experience also included a Hairball concert, with the team providing travel for the awesome rock band.

2017 under Head Coach Mike Zimmer: The team left Wednesday and arrived Thursday.

The Vikings held a walk-through adjacent to the team hotel Thursday and participated in a practice Friday at the London Irish Rugby Football Club. The Vikings visited Twickenham Stadium for a walkthrough Saturday.

View photos of Vikings players and coaches traveling to London for the Week 4 matchup against New Orleans.

2022 under Head Coach Kevin O'Connell: The team left Thursday (wheels up at 6:47 p.m. (CT) Thursday) aboard an A350 that had been chartered and arrived at Stansted airport Friday (wheels down at 8:03 a.m. in London).

Minnesota's operations staff collected everyone's passports long before the day of departure, by the way.

The chartered plane featured exterior cameras enabling passengers to see a live look from above the plane's tail or below its belly, a particularly cool feature during the golden hour before sunset.

Just moments after takeoff, the mammoth craft with 71 rows labeled and nine seats across for those of us in row 69, soared above Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center heading into the night.

The plane gently landed at Stansted Airport after gliding its way through a blanket of thick fog.

The travel party cleared customs and headed for the team hotel, promptly putting players through a short workout.

The Vikings hotel for this trip features a football practice field and a temporary locker room that is tented, allowing the team members to go from their hotel rooms to the locker room and then to the practice field.

Minnesota held a practice on the 90-yard field built by the NFL and nestled into the surrounding golf course and participated in media interviews Friday. The Vikings caught their first glimpse of Tottenham Hotspur Stadium Saturday afternoon.

Vikings Executive Director of Health and Performance Tyler Williams provided multiple details this week on how the Vikings used plentiful sports science information to shape their decision to leave Thursday. The reasons included having as much of a normal schedule (players sleeping in their own beds more nights and having access to TCO Performance Center's athletic recovery offerings) as possible.

Williams, who made four trips to London while with the Rams from 2007-21, said the fact the Vikings opted to request a later bye than the week after this game, also factored into the decision.

The Saints also requested to have their bye later than next week. New Orleans will host Seattle in Week 5 but opted for a different approach to travel than Minnesota. After visiting Carolina in Week 3, the Saints left directly for England and arrived Monday.

Asked about the front end of the Vikings travel schedule this year having the benefit of years of sports science but still nearly matching the approach in 1983, Ryan simply shrugged, "Bud was a smart man. He got it figured out."

Ryan prefers having fewer days, as well.

"You don't have to worry about whether the laundry's getting done properly and you're getting everything back in time to get to the players," Ryan said. "They're all great over there, but you really have less control of what's going to go on as far as laundry getting done, getting back to you in time and being dry."

Transporting equipment

Then (1983): Ryan estimated the Vikings loaded up 7,500 pounds of equipment, including first-down markers and chains that have since become readily available in the U.K.

Former punt returner/receiver Leo Lewis recalled the NFL shipping goalposts "across the pond" for installation at Wembley Stadium.

Now: The Vikings transported 20,000 pounds of equipment (Minnesota usually transports about 17,000 pounds of gear to his road games).

Why such an increase? Roster size and traveling support staff have increased; more clothing options; there's more athletic training equipment and technology.

"The traveling party probably outnumbers the players now, right? Back then, it wouldn't have been even close," Ryan said. "There were nine coaches because Bud [Grant] had just increased his coaching staff all the way to nine and basically there were two people from each department. That's all he had in each department. Far fewer departments back then."

Improvement since 2013 & 2017: The Vikings moved into TCO Performance Center in 2018. The venue's increase in size over the space that Winter Park offered helped Ryan and his equipment staff prepare the equipment.

View photos of Vikings fans in London, England ahead of the Week 4 game vs. the Saints at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.


Ryan said his staff began preparing "pretty much the day we found out we were going."

Lists were made and orders started.

The Vikings were required to submit manifests of everything they brought to turn them into customs.

"It's quite a lengthy document, and right away we started going through it from the last times, going 'OK we don't use this anymore, don't use that,' " Ryan said. "Replace with different things, clothing is made in different countries than it was just a few years ago, so we've got to list the country of origin and the value of everything. So we started going through all of that."

Once the schedule release in April made this appearance in London official, Paul Martin and Chad Lundeen said Minnesota's operations department "went into high gear with as much as we could."

Lundeen and others in an "advance group" traveled to the United Kingdom in late May.

"We sent our chef, we sent IT, team video, athletic trainers, security, just to cover kind of all of the bases on the football side of it," Lundeen said. "They take you through everything while you're there because if you're going to fly eight hours, you might as well make sure that you see everything that you need to see from the hotel to the practice facility to hospitals, you name it."

Visiting London will never be considered old hat, but the Vikings operations staff has tried to build on past experiences.

Unlike trips in the States that are almost like clockwork because the team often stays at the same hotel every time at a particular city, the Vikings have been in different parts of the London area each time.

"The interesting thing is three trips, three different stadiums, three different hotels, so it's been a bit different in different parts of the city," Lundeen said. "So we're going into a different airport, staying at a different area of town, up in Hanbury, so it's a little bit new each time, but the league does a good job of organizing all of your venues for you so we're not out there to have to figure out which hotel we want to stay at, they give you the options and really do all of the legwork for you there."

The NFL now has support staff in place to help teams that make the trek.

View photos of the Vikings-themed double decker bus that'll be traveling throughout the London ahead of the Vikings game against the Saints at Tottenham-Hotspur Stadium.


The Vikings will become the first NFL team to play in all three U.K. stadiums that have hosted NFL games.

1983 at Wembley Stadium: The Vikings headed to practice at Wembley Stadium on Friday. The buses transporting the players arrived before the equipment truck.

When the truck did arrive, Grant had players help unload it and take their gear to the band room, which was located atop the first floor (non-field level) and served as Minnesota's locker room.

"We had to carry everything through the stands to get up there," Ryan recalled. "It was either that or a narrow escape hatch on the backside of the stadium."

Each player's gear was placed on a chair in the band room. Coaches dressed at the hotel.

2013 at Wembley Stadium: The venue now featured locker rooms for each NFL team.

2017 at Twickenham Stadium: Usually home to rugby matches, Twickenham Stadium first opened in 1909 and has gone through modifications over time. Postgame podium sessions were held in a grand room.

I can still hear Case Keenum saying in a boisterous voice as he was leaving and Thielen was entering, "Man of the Match, King of the North."

2022 at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium: This sparkling venue opened in 2019. It's design and accommodations benefited from the idea of hosting multiple NFL games a season. Locker rooms that are spacious enough for the size of NFL rosters (53 players on active and 16 practice squad players) rather than an English Premier League (26 players listed on the Tottenham Hotspur team site).

The locker rooms are conveniently located near the player entry tunnels and postgame interview rooms. Each locker room has an adjacent theater-style postgame interview room.

Reactions from fans

1983 (announced attendance of 32,847 at Wembley Stadium): The large venue wasn't even half full, but it was a start.

"They loved kickoffs. They went crazy on the kickoffs, and that was about the only time they really cheered," Ryan said. "They'd see two teams running down the field and just smashing into each other and they enjoyed that."

Lewis caught three passes for 61 yards, including a 31-yard touchdown, and ran a reverse for "about 30 yards," according to the game recap. Rufus Bess added a 76-yard punt return touchdown.

Doug Martin, who had not been able to leave with he team because of the passport snafu, said he was still jetlagged. Randy Holloway, however, recorded 5.0 sacks and was quoted with saying, "I don't ever want to leave here. I'm thinking of starting a league here."

Lewis said he recalled "a significant number of Americans" in attendance, "and they knew football."

"There were certain circumstances where the cultural differences emerged," Lewis recalled. "I think somebody was talking about getting the coaches up in the press box, and then someone said, 'What, buses in the press box?' Because coach for them is a bus."

View photos from KFAN's live broadcast in London featuring Vikings fans and Pro Football Hall of Famer Cris Carter on Sept. 30 at BarrowBoy and Banker in London.