Croker touchdown for NFL chiefs
By Colm O’Connor
HIGH ranking NFL officials will visit Croke Park on Friday to assess the stadium’s suitability to host their games.
As was revealed in yesterday’s Irish Examiner, American Football’s top brass admitted Dublin was on their radar as they plan to develop their brand in Europe by playing regular season games on this side of the Atlantic.
A number of other European cities are understood to be bidding for such ties and last night Croke Park chief Peter McKenna revealed that his team are close to finalising a formal bid document.
Mr McKenna said: “That story is very timely. We are hosting a delegation on Friday from the NFL. We have been looking at this issue [hosting a regular season game] for some time and have been very encouraged by the huge support we have received from US Ambassador to Ireland Dan Rooney who is also chairman of the Pittsburgh Steelers in recent months.”
If Croke Park are successful in wooing the NFL, McKenna believes that there will be massive economic potential from such games.
He reasoned: “This is not just about Croke Park, this is about Ireland. We are used to hosting large events in this country, like the Volvo Ocean Race and the Ryder Cup. So we would be perfectly capable of hosting a regular season NFL game.
“But this represents a tremendous opportunity for Croke Park, Dublin and for Ireland in terms of tourism, publicity and revenue generation.”
Friday’s meeting is part of a complex bid process.
“The officials will want to have a number of questions answered as part of a tender process.
“We are competing with other cities in Europe for this, so it is very more than just a once off hit. We are due to have a formal bid with them by mid December.
“We are at a very advanced stage in our bid document, this is not something that you could do in a day or a week.
“We have been preparing this for quite some while and we hope that it will all pay off.
“This will all hopefully fit with the Sports Minister’s plan for The Gathering’ Diaspora 2013 project. So hopefully all these things are coming nicely together. Croke Park has hosted NFL games in the past. But this is on a different level.”
NFL’s owners voted last month to add a second foreign game to the league’s season to go with the London fixture which was first played in 2007. The first time the NFL ever went abroad for a regular season game was Mexico City in 2005 but Wembley has been the venue on the last five occasions.
“It’s clear that there’s support for more than one game (in the UK),” league’s commissioner, Roger Goodell told Sports Illustrated. “The ownership has passed a resolution allowing us to do that. We may do that as early as 2012. We’re sort of contemplating that in the context of them hosting the Olympics next summer. We had a (pre-season) game (in Croke Park) in the 1990s where Chicago and Pittsburgh played, and it was a great success.”
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