Last Sunday, the people of England got to see an uninspiring Dolphins team get dominated by the Saints 20-0. The NFL is trying to have a presence in Europe and England in particular and even has gone as far as investing in Tottenham’s new stadium (Tottenham plays at Wembley until their stadium is completed) so they can have a retractable pitch. One that is natural grass for soccer and one that is artificial for football.

Wembley Stadium probably wished they had a retractable pitch because the Saints and Dolphins really did a number on the pitch. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem but England is on the verge of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup and had their final home match against Slovenia at Wembley. This isn’t really a surprise that NFL teams would hurt the pitch, the ruts that are put between the hash marks as well as all the people standing on the sideline, it’s a reason why many NFL teams use artificial turf. Officials obviously knew this but somehow (translation: likely $$$) prevailed.

People were not pleased to see patches on the pitch as well as faded football lines on the Wembley pitch.

While in a great spot to qualify, England hadn’t officially qualified before the Slovenia game and having an NFL game four days before your next to last qualifying match could provide issues. England struggled against Slovenia through the vast majority of the match and you could argue that the pitch conditions had a small part of that. Harry Kane scored a 94th minute goal to defeat Slovenia 1-0 and become the 10th team to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

But despite qualifying, surely the FA wouldn’t have wanted to put anything to chance. Even if hosting NFL games at Wembley is about money, it would have cost them way more if England hadn’t qualified for the World Cup. And while the pitch conditions wouldn’t have been the actual reason why England didn’t qualify, it would’ve invited an easy excuse and wouldn’t have done anybody any favors.

If the FA really wants the NFL at Wembley bad enough, move your qualifiers elsewhere in England. I get Wembley is the national stadium and it’s tradition to play England matches at Wembley but there are plenty of suitable places with exquisite pitches who could fill in. We knew the qualifying schedule at least a year in advance so the FA knew they were scheduling an NFL game days before a qualifier. They’re just lucky everything worked out.

[Photo: @nadderley]

About Phillip Bupp

News and soccer editor for The Comeback and I occasionally write for Awful Announcing and Freezing Cold Takes. I also do video highlight game coverage for Major League Soccer as well as a freelance writer for hire. Opinions are my own but feel free to agree with them.

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