Two and a half years after NBC originally planned to hold its English Premier League Fan Fest in Philadelphia, it’s finally happening this fall.
The event will take place on Saturday October 15 and Sunday October 16 in Dilworth Park, outside Town Hall, the same location where the event was scheduled to be held in April 2020 – until the pandemic of coronavirus strikes.
NBC’s choice of this weekend is intentional. The Premier League slate includes Liverpool v Manchester City, a clash of the last two champions and top contenders to win this season’s title, on Sunday at 11.30am ET; and NBC’s Sunday night NFL game is Eagles-Cowboys at Lincoln Financial Field. Expect to see a lot of cross-promotions.
“Philly was waiting, and we wanted to use the best opportunities at the right time to come back,” Lyndsay Signor, NBC Sports’ senior vice president of consumer engagement, told The Inquirer. “For all the reasons we landed in Philly for 2020 – the city’s fandom, as the heart of so many professional sports – there was never a question. But I think when he started getting closer to hosting the World Cup in Philadelphia and looking for opportunities to collaborate around Sunday night football… that was a really great time to kickstart the fanbase of Philly and bring Fan Fest back and be able to run it without COVID settings getting in the way.
READ MORE: Philadelphia to host 2026 Men’s World Cup matches, bringing global sporting spectacle to America’s birthplace
Other big Premier League games this weekend include Tottenham-Everton on Saturday at 12.30pm and a trio of big games on Sunday at 9am: Brenden Aaronson’s Leeds United against Arsenal (who have a big fan base here); Manchester United versus Newcastle United; and Aston Villa against Christian Pulisic’s Chelsea.
There will be monitors across Dilworth Park so fans can watch whatever match they want, with simulcast matches also scheduled for the traditional 10am Saturday timeslot.
Entrance to the festival will be free, but tickets will be required as alcohol will be served within the perimeter. Tickets will be available through the NBC Sports website after an announcement during Saturday’s Arsenal-Fulham game (12:30 p.m., NBC10, Universo, Peacock).
“It was really about re-engaging with the city, discussing any potential challenges – which have not happened to date – and locking in that date,” Signor said, noting that the festival’s footprint will be pretty much the same as it was in 2020. “But the city was great to work with. … There was really no doubt that we wanted to return to Dilworth Park, assuming it was available, and of course it was.
READ MORE: Inside the English side of NBC’s English Premier League broadcasts
Doors will open at 6 a.m. both days, with the pregame show on USA Network and Peacock beginning at 7 a.m. each time. Signor said the team on site would be ready for fans to show up “as early as 3 to 4 a.m.”
There is also a Friday afternoon game, but fans will not be invited at that time as construction work will be underway.
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 be present as part of its Miami-based studio coverage.
And there will be special guests, yet to be confirmed as talks are ongoing. It’s natural to wonder if three famous local names will be among them: Carli Lloyd, long-time Liverpool fan, Arsenal fan Joel Embid, and Boston Union fan Scott. (Or any other football fan in the Eagles locker room.)
“We’re looking at some of Philadelphia’s sports fan favorites,” Signor said, and she left it there.
READ MORE: From Leeds to Philadelphia, Brenden Aaronson’s first Premier League goal is big news
Union’s involvement is unclear, partly because this weekend is the first round of the Major League Soccer qualifiers. If the Union retains first place in the Eastern Conference for the remainder of the regular season, they will earn a second-round bye and sit out this weekend.
If the team slips up, 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 a thing.
(That’s not NBC’s concern, though, as the network doesn’t have the MLS rights. They belong to Fox, ESPN, and Univision.)
If you imagine NBC bringing Paxten Aaronson on stage to speak with his brother on live television, you’re not alone. But we will have to wait until the end of the regular season to see if it is possible.
The rest of the local sports schedule this weekend begins with a Saturday Flyers home game against Vancouver. The Phillies could have a playoff game, since all four divisional series will be in action on Saturday. There will also be two Match 5s on Sunday. But the Phillies would have to win their Wild Card series first — and of course, they would have to qualify for the playoffs first.
The Sixers are out this weekend, as it falls between the end of preseason games and the start of the regular season a few days later.
READ MORE: Philadelphia to host the Men’s World Cup is a dream come true for Comcast CEO Brian Roberts