Super Bowl 50: All you need to know about this weekend's Big Game

Coldplay are headlining the half-time entertainment at the Golden Super Bowl.
Coldplay are headlining the half-time entertainment at the Golden Super Bowl.
1
Have your say

Millions of people around the world are expected to tune into the Golden Super Bowl this weekend.

The 50th annual championship game of the United States' National Football League (NFL) takes place at 11.30pm Sunday our time.

Support for the game has grown in this country in recent years, and thousands of people have either booked the day off or will be heading into work bleary-eyed on Monday after staying up half the night to watch it.

If, like me, you're a complete Super Bowl novice, and know nothing at all about the game, you're probably wondering why it's such a big deal.

Rest easy, for here, in bite-size chunks, is everything you need to know about Super Bowl 50 (apart from who's going to win).

THE HISTORY

* The Super Bowl is the annual championship game of the National Football League (NFL), the highest level of professional football in the United States. That's American football, not soccer. Are you with us so far?

* The game is the climax of a season which began in the late summer of the previous calendar year. There's a 16-game regular season, and then play-offs to decide who goes all the way to the final. Like the Premier League and FA Cup mixed into one competition then.

* Normally, Roman numerals are used to identify each game, rather than the year in which it is held. This year, the 50th edition, is an exception, however, and it's been called Super Bowl 50, presumably because Superbowl L looks a bit naff, and anyway, didn't we have Super Bowl XL a few years ago? Normal service will be resumed next year, with Super Bowl LI.

* The game was created in 1967 as part of a merger between the NFL and its then-rival league, the American Football League (AFL). It was agreed that the two leagues' champion teams would play in the AFL–NFL World Championship Game until the merger officially began in 1970. The play-offs came later (when it was realised there was even more money to be made).

More than 114million people tuned in to TV coverage of last year's Super Bowl in the U.S. alone.

More than 114million people tuned in to TV coverage of last year's Super Bowl in the U.S. alone.

* Pittsburgh Steelers hold the record for Super Bowl victories with six - including four times in six years between 1975-1980, though they haven't won it since 2009. So they're a bit like Liverpool then. They used to be good, but aren't any more.

THE HYPE

* The day on which the Super Bowl is played, now considered by some an unofficial American national holiday, is called "Super Bowl Sunday". So that's where Sky Sports got their 'Super Sunday' idea from!

* It is the second-largest day for U.S. food consumption, after Thanksgiving Day. Our nearest equivalent is probably the Boxing Day blow-out.

* The Super Bowl is the most-watched American TV broadcast of the year, and the second-most-watched sporting event in the world, behind only soccer's UEFA Champions League final. In fact, the four most-watched broadcasts in U.S. TV history are Super Bowls. Last year's pulled a record U.S. audience of 114.4 million viewers, plus millions more around the world. Slice of pizza and a Bud anyone?

SPONSORSHIP

* The NFL is famously restrictive over the use of its Super Bowl trademark; it is frequently called the Big Game or other generic terms by corporations who aren't among its official sponsors. The NFL has tried to copyright that phrase too, but failed. Good. They're words, and they belong to everybody.

* Because it attracts such huge audiences, commercial airtime during the Super Bowl broadcast is the most expensive of the year, leading to companies regularly developing their most expensive advertisements for this broadcast. This year, companies will have to pay an eye-watering $5million for a 30-second ad. Gulp!

* Watching and discussing the adverts has become a big part of the event. Famous campaigns include the Budweiser "Bud Bowl" campaign and the 1999 and 2000 dot-com ads. Nintendo and The Pokémon Company will make their Super Bowl debut this year, promoting the 20th anniversary of the video game. How old does that make you feel?

TV COVERAGE

* TV coverage is shared on a rota basis by three giant U.S. television corporations, CBS, Fox and NBC. This year it's CBS's turn, and it'll be hoping for record viewing figures, as people tune in before the game and stay with the channel afterwards. Instead of an episode of a hit series, or the pilot of a promising new one, it's showing a special episode of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert after the game, followed by The Late Late Show with James Corden. Yes, him from Gavin and Stacey. No, I don't get it either.

* 20th Century Fox, Paramount Pictures, Universal Studios and Walt Disney Studios have paid for movie trailers during the Super Bowl. Fox have Deadpool, X-Men: Apocalypse, Independence Day: Resurgence and Eddie the Eagle, Paramount will trail Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, Universal paid for the debut trailer for an Untitled fifth Bourne film and Disney will have Captain America: Civil War, The Jungle Book, Zootopia, Alice Through the Looking Glass and Finding Dory.

* In the UK, the game is being shown by the BBC for the first time since 2008. It's on BBC2, with coverage beginning at 10.50pm. Sky Sports will also show the Super Bowl live in the UK and Ireland, while radio coverage will be provided by BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra. Basically, there's no escaping it, other than going to bed.

HALF-TIME

* Pre-game and half-time performances are a huge part of Super Bowl Sunday. Previous headliners include Michael Jackson, Madonna, Prince, The Rolling Stones, The Who, and Whitney Houston. Remember Janet Jackson's 'wardrobe malfunction' in 2004? Course you do. But who won the Super Bowl that year? No idea (A quick Google search reveals it was New England Patriots, though even our resident NFL fan couldn't remember). This year's stars are Coldplay, supported by Beyonce and Bruno Mars. As good a time as any to put the kettle on, I reckon.

THE VENUE

* The contest is held in an American city, chosen three to four years beforehand, usually at warm-weather sites or domed stadiums. This year's is at the 75,000-capacity Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California - home of the San Francisco 49ers. It's sponsored by Levi Strauss & Co - pretty apt given the number of bums on seats their products will be covering.

* Carrying on the jeans theme, the stadium, which opened in 2013, has been nicknamed "The Big Bellbottom". It has had repeated problems with its surface, including the grass collapsing under a kicker during a game last year. Despite the concerns, it's been allowed to stage Super Bowl 50. That'll please Levi's, who paid a cool $220million for the naming rights.

* The Levi's Stadium has been praised for its excellent sightlines, beautiful architecture, superb amenities, technological advancements, great public transport access, and environmental footprint. It's also been criticized for being highly corporate, and lacking the sort of 'football atmosphere' of the 49ers' previous ground Candlestick Park. So it's like Arsenal moving from Highbury to the Emirates Stadium.

SPIN-OFFS

* A whole industry has built up around the Super Bowl final. A requirement of hosting the game is there must be a minimum number of hotel spaces within an hour's drive of the stadium, equal to 35% of its capacity, along with hotels for the teams, officials, media and other dignitaries. For Super Bowl XXXIX, the city of Jacksonville docked several luxury cruise liners at their port to act as temporary hotel space. Now that's determination!

THE CONTESTANTS

* This year's finalists are NFC champions Carolina Panthers, who've reached the Super Bowl twice, but never won it, and AFC champions Denver Broncos, who share the record for final appearances (eight) but have won it only twice.

* Who's going to win? According to the form book, you can't look past the Panthers. They ended the regular season with the best overall record, losing only one game out of 16, and their quarterback Cam Newton is apparently "a machine", according to those in the know. The Broncos won 12 out of 16, so go into the game as massive underdogs. Carolina also have youth on their side, with Denver's hopes resting on their hugely experienced 39-year-old quarterback Peyton Manning. Stranger things have happened though.

* Don't forget the officials. In this country, being named as the man in the middle for the FA Cup final is the pinnacle of most referees' careers. Super Bowl 50 will have no fewer than NINE officials; a referee, umpire, head linesman, line judge, field judge, side judge, back judge, replay official and replay assistant. No wonder they need so many hotel rooms.

THE GAME ITSELF

* Go Panthers! Or should that be Broncos? I guess that like many others on these shores, I want the team in the best strip or who have the most entertaining supporters to win, as I have no idea how the game is played, or who deserves to win most. Watching American football leaves me as confused as Dougal in an episode of Father Ted. Close ... far away...

THE PRIZE

* The winning team receives the Vince Lombardi Trophy, named after the coach of the Green Bay Packers, who won the first two Super Bowl games in 1967 and 1968. This year's winners will also receive a special 18-carat gold-plated "50" trophy. Nice touch. Unlike the myriad gold-themed promotions during the regular season, the gold-painted 50-yard line, gold-trimmed hats and jackets - need I go on?

COULD IT HAPPEN HERE?

* London has occasionally been mentioned as a host city for a Super Bowl in the near future, especially as Wembley Stadium has hosted several NFL games as part of the International Series. Time zone complications would be a significant obstacle, as a typical 6.30pm Eastern Time start would mean the game beginning at the unusually late hour of 11.30pm in London. We wouldn't rule it out, but the earliest it could happen would be Super Bowl LV in 2021.