Croke Park Possible Destination for NFL in 2013

January 23, 2012

Croke Park bosses are optimistic of staging an NFL game in 2013 following the American Football organisation’s decision not to come to Dublin in 2012.

NFL heads have been looking for a second European venue to host a game in 2012 with Croke Park touted as a possibility but in a year crammed with sporting events and with a college football game already scheduled for Dublin this autumn, NFL bosses have decided to defer any further expansion.

On Friday the NFL confirmed details of this year’s International Series in Wembley when the St Louis Rams take on the New England Patriots this October, the first of the annual “home” games which the Rams have signed up to play in London over the next three seasons.

The announcement came as no surprise to Peter McKenna, stadium director of Croke Park, who said that the Dublin bid committee have been looking beyond 2012 for some time now.

“There has been an ongoing dialogue between ourselves and the NFL, so we’ve been aware for a while now of their decision to only hold one game in Europe in 2012,” McKenna said.

“There’s a lot of activity in the European sports market in 2012, which they had to take account of. But we’re still very much in the running for 2013, so we’re optimistic that we’ll be able to bring the NFL to Dublin then.”

The case for a Dublin game in 2013 gathered pace earlier this week when Pittsburgh Steelers president Art Rooney II conceded that any game involving his franchise was “more likely” to happen next year, thus avoiding a clash with the college game between Notre Dame and Navy in the Aviva Stadium on 1 September.

Rooney’s father — Dan Rooney, the American Ambassador to Ireland — has made no secret of his desire to bring the Steelers to Dublin, but the final call on teams and a venue will be “very much an NFL decision,” McKenna says.

No timeline for a final decision on 2013 has been set by the NFL, although a date in January or February of next year would be in keeping with previous announcements. Details of Wembley’s first-ever American football game, between the New York Giants and the Miami Dolphins in 2007, were publicly confirmed in February of that year.

Regardless of when the decision is made, Croke Park will be prepared, McKenna insists.

“From a stadium perspective, we’d certainly be able to manage a quick turnaround and get ready in a short space of time. From a marketing perspective, I’d imagine that the sooner plans are put in place, the better,” he added.

“But the NFL are experts at this, they know exactly what they’re doing.”

An estimated 10,000 American football fans are due in Dublin for Notre Dame v Navy this autumn, providing a much-needed cash injection for the Irish economy. Considering the bigger stadium capacity and the higher profile of an NFL regular-season match, a successful bid by Croke Park is projected to be worth about €50 ($65m) million, although McKenna admits that “it’s very hard to know.”

“At an estimate, it might generate somewhere in the region of €50 ($65m) million. There’d be a lot of visitors flying in and that will obviously be of huge benefit for hotels, restaurants, bars, taxis. It’s a multi-million euro stimulus anyway.”

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