Selling out Wembley Stadium for an American football match has become a yearly occurrence with the NFL’s explosion in popularity, but how different did things look 30 years ago?
The year of 1991 saw not only the inception of the World League of American Football, but the christening of its first British team, the London Monarchs. Made up of aspirational young talent and players seeking an NFL comeback, the Monarchs took the competition by storm and won 9 of their 10 league games across Europe and the United States.
After a playoff win against the New York Knights in the Big Apple, London’s team rounded off its inaugural season on home soil, facing a resilient Barcelona Dragons side that had handed them their only loss just two weeks prior.
The 1991 World Bowl welcomed more than 61,000 American football fans to the original Wembley Stadium on the 9th of June and the Monarchs went in with no shortage of confidence.
A nervy opening quarter looked to be ending scoreless before Monarchs’ quarterback and WLAF offensive MVP Stan Gelbaugh launched a deep pass to wide receiver Jon Horton, who strode into the end-zone for a 59-yard touchdown. Horton had known long before that moment that the Monarchs would put on a show in the World Bowl.
He said: “We always had this big idea that Wembley Stadium was where we had to end it with a bang.
“Coach Kennan did a great job of keeping us focussed on that game and the fans were amazing. I get goosebumps even now.
“That loss to Barcelona was a blessing in disguise. When it came World Bowl time we knew: we’re beating your a**.”
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Featured photo courtesy of Dom Tancock