Georgia football: UK fans love grows for the college game

Head Coach Kirby Smart celebrates after defeating the Alabama Crimson Tide during the College Football Playoff Championship. (Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images)
Head Coach Kirby Smart celebrates after defeating the Alabama Crimson Tide during the College Football Playoff Championship. (Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images) /

The Georgia football fandom expands farther than the United States border — it’s a global effort.

On any Saturday, Georgia football and college football fans gather to watch their alma maters or their favorite teams.

But what you might not realize while you watch the game from your seat inside Sanford Stadium or your couch in Marietta is that thousands of fans around the globe are joining you.

The allure of college football is growing quickly outside of the United States, so much so that schools now recognize that they have fan bases thousands of miles away from the main campus.

So have you thought about what it’s like watching the Dawgs outside of Georgia?

Well, it makes life a little exciting and undoubtedly needs some organizing, but at the end of the day, it is a price worth paying for overseas fans. All games are evening and night games for those across the pond.

Given the many other sports that Brits and Europeans could be watching — soccer, tennis, golf, rugby, even the NFL is played in London now. Why would Georgia and college football register on the radar?

College football > NFL

Well, this is an easy one to answer, and if you are reading this, you already know the answer.

College football is like no other sport on this planet.

The history, culture and intense rivalries — especially in the South are unmatchable. The sights, sounds and smells during tailgates are a sight to behold.

To marvel and revel in — there is nothing to match the passion and excitement of an SEC football game played in the fall.

But until recently, people in the United Kingdom did not follow college football in significant numbers. However, people like me who traveled to the states for vacations started to come back with tales of these incredible scenes in towns where professional sports were not the focus.

But yet, college football gets played in front of 100,000 fans in certain stadiums. What was going on in University towns up and down the country?

This fact was all it needed to pique the interest of sports-mad fans looking for something to match their passionate support.

The global expansion of the NFL is well documented. Sure NFL has become incredibly popular in the UK, with four regular season games sold out each year in London. So much so that London might just get the expansion team, but college football offers so much more.

Those in the college and Georgia football cult know that the NFL is their little brother. Travel down into SEC country to see the real deal — the pomp and parade of the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, the Iron Bowl or the madness and chaos of the Egg Bowl to get a true taste of football.

Once that college bug bites you, the game is up, and there is no turning back.

Of course, being some 4,000 miles away from Athens — Georgia, not Greece, brings challenges. The distance, both miles but mostly time difference is a real barrier to watching those Georgia Bulldogs on a Saturday.

How does the college football scene in the UK compare with how United States fans watch a game on a Saturday?

Anyone you meet from the UK will want to talk about the weather. The weather is a topic of national debate, daily — actually hourly, given how quickly it changes.

This grim reality, especially during the fall, means that fans have not greatly embraced tailgating over the pond. Instead, fans will try to find a screen indoors to watch it on. So if we count the weather as challenge No.1, quickly we arrive at challenge No. 2.

How to watch Georgia football in the UK

Unless fans want to fly to Atlanta, which more and more are, the next best option is to find somewhere to watch the game on television.

You may be surprised to hear that Georgia football and headlined college games are shown on major sports channels in the UK throughout the season. Both main cable providers dedicate channels to college football on a Saturday, meaning it’s not unusual to have five or six games shown live on a Saturday.

Additionally, more and more fans subscribe to the UK version of ESPN Player, which shows a much wider range of games. This option is also the trick if you want to watch YOUR team on a Saturday because the TV scheduled games are usually the games you see back home — those carried by the major networks and the hot tickets in town.

As you also experience, games spread across the three main time slots, except the UK is five hours ahead of Eastern time. This time difference means College Gameday kicks off proceedings around 2 p.m. UK time, with the first slate of games starting at 5 p.m.

Those 3:30 p.m. games are the primetime game at 8 p.m. for us in the UK, and the late games sometimes begin after midnight. Yes, college football on a Sunday!

Here is challenge No. 3— timing. You need to be someone that survives on little sleep or is going to spend Sunday catching up on lost snooze. Especially if the final game is on the West coast in the PAC12 — heaven forbid Hawaii is playing because that means you are going to bed when others are waking on Sunday morning.

That right there is the dedicated college football fan if you are still watching a game at 7 a.m. on a Sunday, and believe me, plenty does it!

The best UK bars to watch Georgia football

But what if you are a social animal and want to meet other like-minded or even rival fans? Fans can head to the good old traditional British pub just like they do in the states.

Sadly, finding a drinking establishment that shows American football — NFL or college is still quite challenging, but if you look hard enough, it is possible.

London is a city with a lot of social life, so it remains the likeliest place to find a bar with a screen. The Maple Leaf in Covent Garden is a favorite spot for fans of any US sports to congregate on the weekend.

Despite its ties to Canada, The Leaf caters to all sports. It is a more traditional North American sports bar with multiple screens showing baseball, basketball, NFL and college throughout the weekends.

Situated in the heart of London’s West End, it’s a Mecca for sports fans, so the need to grab a seat early is essential. The benefit of college games kicking off in the afternoon is significant in this regard — a seat near the screen is guaranteed! Oh, and their food is pretty excellent.

London has many other US-style sports bars, such as Belushi’s bar on London Bridge — yes, the London Bridge that was falling down. The excellent Philadelphia-inspired Passyunk Avenue is a fantastic venue to catch a game and a beer.

But that’s not to say you can’t catch a game outside of London. It would be remiss of me not to talk about my hometown and sports-crazy city, Glasgow. Yes, the Scots love their sports and love to drink and eat — a perfect combination for a Saturday afternoon.

Sports bars have embraced the diversity of sports to show on multiple screens and attract a broader customer base. Something you guys have known about for decades, but travel the length and breadth of the country — Manchester, Newcastle, Edinburgh and you will find sports fans trying to persuade the bartender to change the TV channel to college football.

Some alumni hold larger gatherings — Michigan has a sizeable alumni base in London who host watch parties, where everyone is welcome, as do Texas fans. I am still on the hunt for a Bulldogs meet-up, but you will already recognize from social media several Georgia fans based in the UK.

Of course, the nirvana, the Mecca for college football fans, is to get on a plane and experience what you all can on a Saturday. The pilgrimage to Athens is a dream for some and an experience for others. Much like anyone who attends their first game at Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium, the experience is magical and is a sensory overload on first engagement.

But it is becoming an affordable option for many UK fans now with specialist travel firms organizing trips to the US where fans can watch, say, Georgia on a Saturday and make the short trip to Atlanta to see the Falcons on a Sunday. That, right there, is a very enjoyable weekend of sport. Albeit a long way to travel, but is certainly worth the trip.

Others like me organize their own trips over a more extended period and take in more towns and games along the way. The last time I made it to Athens for a game, it coincided while SEC Nation was in town and then Tuscaloosa when College Gameday was there, with trips to Gainesville, Baton Rouge, Oxford, and Tallahassee in between! That was a trip to remember.

light. Related Story. Why Georgia football has the best fans

So there you have it, following your favorite college football team from a distance takes some endurance, organization, persistence, and energy. Like every Bulldog fan — we are one big, global Dawg family.