Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Christie spends Super Bowl Sunday in stands in London

LONDON - Gov. Christie, whose fervor for the Dallas Cowboys wore thin with some sports fans this season, rooted on a different football team Sunday. But it was also a different kind of football.

LONDON - Gov. Christie, whose fervor for the Dallas Cowboys wore thin with some sports fans this season, rooted on a different football team Sunday. But it was also a different kind of football.

Christie began the first leg of a three-day trip to the United Kingdom by taking in an English Premier League football match at London's Emirates Stadium.

He traded his orange sweater - a trademark of his attendance often splashed across television screens at recent Cowboys games - for a red-and-white scarf in honor of the English team Arsenal.

Christie's appearances in the luxury box of Dallas owner Jerry Jones drew ethics questions and made him a target of criticism at home. On Sunday, he sat outside in the stands at the Arsenal game, although an aide acknowledged he was in an area known as "the director's box."

Accompanied by his wife, Mary Pat, as he left the game - which Arsenal carried 5-0 over Aston Villa - Christie told reporters that English fans had displayed "the same kind of level of enthusiasm" as those in New Jersey.

But he declined to draw a comparison to another fan base he has previously riled.

"I'm never talking about Philly fans again," said Christie, who was overheard calling city sports fans "the worst in America," according to a New York Times report.

The Republican governor, whose office has billed the trip as a chance to strengthen business ties between New Jersey and the United Kingdom, said he looked forward to an agenda that includes a visit to Cambridge focused on the life sciences industry and meetings with British officials, including Prime Minister David Cameron.

He avoided the topic of presidential politics, including questions on a reported meeting between him and 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney and whether he was "processing" a reshaped field of potential rivals following Romney's Friday announcement that he would not run in 2016.

"I just arrived here a few hours ago. I'm not processing a lot at the moment. I've processed some soccer, that's about it," Christie said, quickly correcting himself: "Or football."

Christie was expected to later watch the Super Bowl with Rutgers University exchange students.

Arsenal - whose majority owner is Stan Kroenke, an American billionaire who owns multiple sports teams, including the Denver Nuggets and St. Louis Rams - arranged for Christie's tickets Sunday, according to an aide.

"We are working out payment," said the aide, Lauren Fritts.

Christie's trip is being paid for in part by Choose New Jersey, a nonprofit funded by businesses that also sponsored trips the governor took last year to Mexico and Canada.

Christie's office has said the state is covering security costs; it has not disclosed its costs from the Mexico or Canada trips. Choose New Jersey - which recently hired departing state Economic Development Authority Chief Michele Brown as its new CEO - also has not disclosed its costs from those trips.

Brown is on the trip with Christie, along with Rutgers President Robert L. Barchi and the U.K.'s deputy consul general in New York, Nick Astbury. Richard Bagger, senior vice president at the pharmaceutical company Celgene, was expected to join the group.

Leaving the stadium, Christie said he and Mary Pat had visited London "at least four times during our marriage. It's one of our more favorite places to come, so we're very familiar with the city as tourists."

Arsenal fans, however, did not seem familiar with Christie. A pack of teenage boys, trailing the media throng following Christie, demanded: "Who is he?" The answer didn't register.

Inside the stadium, fans interviewed by a reporter mostly had little to say about the governor of New Jersey.

"The only Jersey I know is the one I got for Christmas," said George Bird, 82. Another fan, David Wheeler, offered: "I know the Sopranos come from New Jersey."

One man had a vague recollection of the George Washington Bridge scandal. "Is that the chap who was using public funds - I forget exactly what the story was," said Alan Anderson, 68. "Something about a transit system." (When a reporter brought up the lane closures, he responded, "The tall bridge.")

Christie told reporters he wasn't worried about low name recognition among Londoners.

"I'm not running for anything in the United Kingdom anytime soon," he said.