Two-and-a-half years after NBC originally planned to bring its English Premier League Fan Fest to Philadelphia, it’s finally happening this fall.
The event will take place on Saturday, Oct. 15, and Sunday, Oct. 16, at Dilworth Park outside City Hall, the same place where the event was to be held in April 2020 — until the coronavirus pandemic struck.
NBC’s choice of that weekend is intentional. The Premier League’s slate includes Liverpool vs. Manchester City, a clash of the last two champions and the top contenders to win this season’s title, on Sunday at 11:30 a.m. ET; and NBC’s Sunday night NFL game is Eagles-Cowboys at Lincoln Financial Field. Expect to see plenty of cross-promotion.
“Philly’s been waiting, and we wanted to use the best opportunities at the right moment to come back,” NBC Sports’ senior vice president of consumer engagement Lyndsay Signor told The Inquirer. “For all of the reasons that we landed on Philly for 2020 — the fandom the city, as the heart of so many professional sports — there was never a question. But I think when it started to get closer to Philadelphia hosting the World Cup, and looking at some opportunities to collaborate around Sunday Night Football … it felt like a really awesome time to fire up the Philly fan base again, and bring Fan Fest back and actually be able to execute it without COVID parameters in the way.”
Other big Premier League games that weekend include Tottenham-Everton on Saturday at 12:30 p.m., and a trio of big games Sunday at 9 a.m.: Brenden Aaronson’s Leeds United vs. Arsenal (which has a big fan base here); Manchester United vs. Newcastle United; and Aston Villa vs. Christian Pulisic’s Chelsea.
There will be monitors across Dilworth Park for fans to watch the game they want to, with simultaneous games also set for the traditional Saturday 10 a.m. time slot.
Admission to the festival will be free, but tickets will be required because alcohol will be served within the perimeter. Tickets will become available via NBC Sports’ website after an announcement during Saturday’s Arsenal-Fulham game (12:30 p.m., NBC10, Universo, Peacock).
“It was really just reengaging back with the city, talking through any challenges potentially — which to date there haven’t been — and locking in that date,” Signor said, noting that the footprint for the festival will be about the same as it was in 2020. “But the city was awesome to work with. … There was really no doubt that we wanted to go back to Dilworth Park, assuming that it was available, and of course it was.”
The gates will open at 6 a.m. on both days, with the pregame show on USA Network and Peacock starting at 7 a.m. each time. Signor said the on-site crew will be ready for fans to show up “as early as 3 to 4 a.m.”
There’s one game on Friday afternoon, too, but fans will not be invited then because some construction will be going on.
NBC’s studio crew — host Rebecca Lowe and analysts Robbie Earle, Tim Howard, and Robbie Mustoe — will be in town all weekend. Telemundo will also have a presence as part of its Miami-based studio coverage.
And there will be special guests, still to be confirmed as talks are going on now. It’s natural to wonder if three famous local names will be among them: longtime Liverpool fan Carli Lloyd, Arsenal fan Joel Embiid, and Union fan Boston Scott. (Or any other soccer fans in the Eagles’ locker room.)
“We are looking at some Philly sports fan favorites,” Signor said, and she left it there.
What involvement the Union will have is unclear, in part because that weekend is the first round of Major League Soccer’s playoffs. If the Union hold on to first place in the Eastern Conference for the rest of the regular season, they’ll get a bye to the second round and be off that weekend.
If the team slips, fans will have to hope their game is scheduled late enough on Saturday or Sunday to get from Center City to Subaru Park without missing anything.
(That is not NBC’s concern, though, as the network doesn’t have MLS rights. They belong to Fox, ESPN and Univision.)
If you’re imagining NBC bringing Paxten Aaronson on stage to talk with his brother on live TV, you aren’t alone. But we’ll have to wait until the regular season is over to see if that’s possible.
The rest of the local sports calendar that weekend starts with a Flyers home game on the Saturday against Vancouver. The Phillies could have a playoff game, since all four Division Series will be in action on the Saturday. There will also be two Game 5s on the Sunday. But the Phillies would have to win their Wild Card series first — and of course, they’d have to make the playoffs in the first place.
The Sixers are off that weekend, as it falls between the end of preseason games and the start of the regular season a few days later.