Fans from far and wide came out for the Packers season opener, including a group of supporters traveling all the way from Ireland and the United Kingdom.
“I’ve never been to New York. I’ve never been to LA. I don’t need to. I’d rather come to Green Bay,” says Phil Rudkin, a fan traveling to Green Bay from England.
More than 30 international Packers fans traveled thousands of miles to see this year’s home opener, all in the name of the green and gold.
It all started back in 2013, with the Twitter account “U.K. and Irish Packers.” Co-founders Ryan Peacock and Stephen O’Brien created the account to reach out to green and gold fans across Europe.
Founders quickly realized they weren’t the only Packer Backers living across the pond.
“Before you were just sitting in your living room and you didn't have anybody to talk to about the game,” says O’Brien. “But now you have this network across Ireland, England, all over the UK, Wales, Scotland, and even it stretches into Europe. I mean the UK Packers have become the biggest fan group outside of the states.”
“Now we've got nearly 1,000 full-time paid up members and I think over 20,000 followers on social media all around the world,” says Peacock.
For the pair, and their thousands of followers, with the Green Bay Packers comes a completely different approach to watching sports.
“I think American football just gives you something different to what the British sport gives you,” says Peacock. “For example, we're all here now six hours before kickoff, and we're all out here together doing something. That just doesn't happen back home.”
As for their level of dedication – it’s unparalleled.
“If you get a prime time game [in Wisconsin], that’s 1:30 in the morning for us,” says Rudkin. “I get two hours of sleep. I wake up at 1:15, I watch the game through till 5:15, get two hours sleep, and go to work.”
The U.K. and Irish Packers Fans are already working toward next year’s trip back to Titletown, saying Wisconsin’s culture is welcoming and reminiscent of home.
“Every person we speak to has so much Packers pride running through them,” says Rudkin. “You can see how much the team means to the community. And everybody just loves the Packers.”
“If you look out into the fields of Ireland, you can see that each field is marked out by someone's hand,” O’Brien says. “So it's kind of the history within our country, and the history within Green Bay, kind of when you marry the two, it's a match made in Heaven really.”