Fans of the Newcastle Falcons rugby team are used to travelling long distances to see their team play. As part of the Aviva Premiership, all their away games are played ‘down South’ including as far as Exeter.
But this weekend sees them travel further still; to Philadelphia in the US in fact, where they’ll see their team take on rivals Saracens. Both team – and their supporters – are making the 7,000 mile round trip as part of the game’s attempts to introduce it to a bigger fan base.
Saracens are particularly savvy here and have put on games in France as well as the US. Last year, they played an ‘away’ match against London Irish at the Red Bull Arena in New Jersey.
Rugby fans are not the only ones used to long distance travelling. Football fans living in Wimbledon and hoping to support their local team have, since 2003, had to travel to Milton Keynes when their team relocated there following the sale of their ground. MK Dons, as they are now known, play in Football’s League One.
Of course, these trips would be considered as nothing by fans of the MLS in the US. For them, 1,000 miles is considered a short trip! To put this into a UK perspective, Portland Timbers supporters (based in Oregon) intent on watching their team play in New York would travel the same distance as going from London to Baghdad. Watching LA Galaxy play Boston means making a longer trip than Tokyo to Manila!
US sports fans are also used to their teams packing up and moving out of town. And not just out of town, but out of the state too.
But Canadian fans, in particular, must feel especially aggrieved at their teams’ willingness to up sticks. Consider these examples. In 1995, local hockey team, Quebec Nordiques moves to Denver to become the Colorado Avalanche, while six years later, in In 2001, professional basketball team, the Vancouver Grizzlies moves to Memphis to become the Memphis Grizzlies. And then in 2005, Major league baseball team the Montreal Expos moves to Washington, D.C. to become the Washington Nationals.
Of course it can work in their favour too. In 2011 hockey team, the Atlanta Thrashers moves to Winnipeg and is now called the Winnipeg Jets.