Sports Listings: Plan ahead: American Football

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SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA in January, temperatures in the seventies, sunshine and the heady excitement of Super Bowl XXVII beckons the American Football fan.

The 1993 National Football League final, when the American Conference champion plays the National Conference champion, will be held at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, 10 miles north of downtown Los Angeles in the picturesque foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains in the San Fernando valley.

The Rose Bowl has hosted four previous Super Bowls but its endearing feature is that it was built for American Football. There is no running track, which brings the game closer to the spectator and heightens the atmosphere. Even sitting in the top row, row 82, the action does not seem far away.

The NFL allocates its showpiece final to cities with warm climates or, in the north, to venues with covered arenas like the Metrodome in Minneapolis in 1992. The trend for the next four years is to take the Superbowl to warm- weather cities. In 1994, it goes to Atlanta, Georgia, and the following year Miami will be the host. The venue for the 1996 final has not been finalised, but it seems likely that Phoenix, Arizona, will stage Superbowl XXX.

The San Francisco 49ers, the National Conference team regarded as the best in the NFL, have already secured a place in the play-offs and the Buffalo Bills, last year's losing finalists who also have won through to the play- offs from the American Conference, are the teams favoured to appear at Pasadena. However, when the play- offs commence on 2 January, the pressure will tell, particularly in the National Conference where strong teams like the Dallas Cowboys and the New Orleans Saints are also through, but the 49ers will have home advantage because of their superior record.

Of the 101,000 seats at Pasadena, 75 per cent of tickets are allocated to the 28 teams with the finalists and host teams receiving a larger share. The NFL retains the rest for its affiliated companies, television networks, sponsors and charities, but this season allocates 500 tickets for sale outside the United States. Demand for tickets in the United States outstrips supply. The NFL has nominated official agents, whose tours have met with its approval, in just seven countries worldwide. Britain has three such tour operators.

Kuoni Travel Limited, of London, has already sold its allocation, but Pro Sport Travel, based in Bridgnorth, and On The Mark, of Rugby, have some packages remaining. Pro Sport have four itineraries, the cheapest starting at pounds 899 per person for four nights, staying at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel and including trips to Universal Studios and Tijuana in Mexico. The top itinerary at Pro Sport also takes in the Pro Bowl match in Honolulu, with six nights in Hawaii. Cost is pounds 1,498 per person.

On The Mark Travel provides a similar four-night package at the Holiday Inn, Anaheim, which is close to Disneyland. This tour includes a day trip to Universal Studios and Venice Beach and costs pounds 825 per person. Again the arrangements are flexible and extra nights can be added. Car hire is also available at pounds 22 per day or pounds 89 per week.

The Host Committee for Superbowl XXVII is a local organisation, charged by the NFL to prepare the groundwork for the match. This includes the rental of the stadium, producing a guide to what is on in the greater Los Angeles area at the time of the final, covering everything from museums to theatre groups, music events to other main sporting action. Guides to transportation in Los Angeles and hotels will also be available.

The Committee has been allowed to purchase 2,500 tickets to raise private revenue in lieu of public funding, but does not sell them individually. It provides 'VIP Patron Ticket Packages' in three grades, gold, silver and bronze, and has about 1,000 remaining. The packages include hospitality and tickets for the game only. Top of the range is the Gold Patron package, which costs dollars 1,750 ( pounds 1,100) per person for a luxury day out and a seat in the centre between the 30-yard lines. What may seem an expensive day out as the face value of a Superbowl ticket this season is dollars 175 ( pounds 111) is put in perspective when it is reported that tickets are changing hands on the black market at dollars 2,000 ( pounds 1,275). Touting is illegal in California.

Superbowl XXVII, Rose Bowl, Pasadena, California, 31 January.

National Football League, 410 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10022 (Tel: 010 1 212 758 1500).

Superbowl XXVII Host Committee, 633 West 5th Street, 60th floor, Los Angeles, California 90071 (Tel: 010 1 213 663 1993). Super Bowl hotline (from 18 January): 010 1 818 584 5983. Ticket and hospitality packages: Gold dollars 1,750 ( pounds 1,100); Silver pounds 1,250 ( pounds 800), seat on sidelines; Bronze dollars 995 ( pounds 635), end zone seat.

Pro Sport Travel, 45 High Street, Bridgnorth, Shropshire (Tel: 0746 765273).

On The Mark, 19 Poppy Drive, Rugby, Warwickshire, CV23 0TR (Tel: 0788-537893).

Kuoni Travel Limited, Special Tours Department, 33 Maddox Street, London W1R 9LD (Tel: 071-499 8636).

United States Travel and Tourist Administration, PO Box 1EN W1, Oxford Street, London W1 (Tel: 071-495 4466).