When it comes to the Vikings’ relationship with Tottenham Hotspur, the 4,000-mile distance from London to Minneapolis might as well be the less-than-a-mile stretch from U.S. Bank Stadium to Nomad World Pub.
That’s a trek some of the English Premier League (EPL) team’s executives made on Feb. 4, when they started their morning viewing Tottenham’s game against Liverpool at the bar that houses the official supporters group Minneapolis Spurs. Later that night, they took in Super Bowl LII at the Vikings’ home stadium.
“The atmosphere at the bar that day was incredible. I mean, it was packed. It was loud. It was an exciting game,” said John Eichten, vice chairman of the Minneapolis Spurs. “I was actually standing next to the club leadership that was there for most of the game, and I saw the two individuals that were there … look at each other and just kind of say, ‘Wow.’
“When they left, they shook our hands as they were leaving to go to the Super Bowl and said, ‘We’ll see you very soon.’ ”
Soon ended up being Tuesday, when Tottenham will play Italy’s AC Milan at U.S. Bank Stadium for the International Champions Cup, a tournament that brings star European teams to places like North America for summer tours.
This will be the club’s first official visit to Minneapolis for a game, but Tottenham’s executives have made several trips to Minnesota over the past three to four years, said Aidan Mullaly, the club’s head of business development. And each time, the sports fan culture in the city, for both kinds of football, has impressed them.
Tottenham has a 10-year partnership with the NFL, announced in 2015, that allows for the team’s new stadium to host a minimum of two regular-season games a year. The stadium is set to host an Oct. 14 game between the Seattle Seahawks and Oakland Raiders, though there is concern about construction being finished in time.
But the stadium will be the only purpose-built NFL stadium outside of North America. It has a retractable grass field above a turf surface, dedicated coaches’ booths and NFL-caliber locker rooms.
Tottenham learned from the Vikings as they built U.S. Bank Stadium, as well as training facility TCO Performance Center. On Monday, some Tottenham and Vikings players participated in a kick-around at the training facility while club executives met and toured the grounds.
Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino said seeing U.S. Bank Stadium on TV during the Super Bowl didn’t do it justice and called it “one of the best in the world.” That’s a sentiment Tottenham defender Ben Davies echoed of TCO Performance Center.
Lester Bagley, Vikings executive vice president of public affairs, said Tottenham has tried to learn from the Vikings’ focus on fan experience as well as how to acknowledge and promote partners and sponsors within their facilities. Meanwhile, the Vikings want to learn from Tottenham’s global reach and focus on digital media. For example, the Tottenham account on Twitter has nearly 3 million followers; the Vikings have fewer than 1.3 million.
“The EPL is one of the strongest leagues in the world, and so I think the NFL can learn from their league,” Bagley said. “But in our country, NFL is king. It’s a strong and growing fan base and market. So I think they can learn from the league, the teams in the league’s best practices.”
This ICC game is another chance to continue that reciprocity.
“Every time I go to an NFL event, I’m blown away at the nature of the experience,” Mullaly said, adding it’s impressive the league can sustain that level of entertainment for three-hour games. “The NFL is looking toward international expansion, and clearly the UK is a fantastic market.
“Quite frankly, there’s a massive opportunity for collaboration. Our growth does not need to come at the expense of the NFL and vice versa. It’s very important that we all work together.”