GAA should make Croke Park pitch to NFL

I see that Wembley is up for sale, writes Michael Moynihan.

GAA should make Croke Park pitch to NFL

Yup, Wembley. Which is so costly that, according to some media reports last week, it loses money after making repayments on the interest on the debt still owing on the redevelopment, a debt of around £140 million.

No wonder the Football Association is reported to be taking a bid for the stadium from Shahid Khan seriously.

Khan is an American billionaire who owns the Jacksonville Jaguars NFL team; the first Muslim to own an NFL franchise and the first to seriously consider moving his team to London.

This has been a recurring refrain in Khan’s interviews, hence the seriousness with which the FA is regarding his offer, believed to be in the neighbourhood of £600 million.

What caught my eye in the reporting of David Conn of the Guardian on the matter was this paragraph.

If the sale were to go through, “. . . the FA is saying it will retain all this income and revert to playing matches on the basis it used to and on which most national teams do: pay rent to use the stadium and keep the money from the tickets.

“Khan will buy out the stadium itself, take the food and beverage revenue from the rest of it, and take on the burden of its upkeep.”

See, an imp on my shoulder suggests that maybe someone in Croke Park should pick up the phone and give Khan a shout.

Wembley is newer than Croker but there isn’t a debt of £140 million hanging around the neck of the stadium in Dublin 3. What would happen if Khan were to offer the £600 million to Croke Park on the same basis - ownership of the asset and first call on games being played there at the very time of year when the GAA itself wouldn’t need games?

During the summer the championship rolls into town, and as it pulls out of the station could the goalposts be replaced with end zones as the NFL runs through the winter?

I know some readers will splutter and spit their corn flakes across the table, and others will simply laugh.

Why?

The biggest drawback has nothing to do with the stadia involved. London has a population in its hinterland ten times bigger than Dublin. Access to the English capital from America is far better as well for those NFL fans wishing to attend games on this side of the Atlantic.

Those drawbacks are ones that can be overcome, however. It’s not as if there isn’t a lengthy tradition of thousands of Americans coming to this country. It’s not as if Irish people don’t have a tradition of travelling considerable distances - out of the country in the case of rugby and soccer - to support teams they have an interest in.

In addition, the NFL itself - which is, after all, a $14 billion industry - has had a strong interest in spreading itself out of America for quite some time. If the NFL wanted to make Croke Park work as a venue, it’d make Croke Park work as a venue.

There are other considerations. For instance, it’s been reported that if the FA were to retain its Club Wembley business - luxury packages, long-term seat deals - then that could be worth up to £300 million to it. The equivalent deals in Croke Park aren’t in that ballpark (sorry) but those are small details to be worked out. Fine print.

If the GAA were to find £600 million in its bank account then there’d be ample opportunity to create the best kind of headlines.

If anyone needs my input, you know where I am. Happy to step in and make the introductions anytime you like.

Coming soon: Keepers who make a point with their puckouts

I was in Killeagh over the weekend at a couple of Cork premier intermediate championship games. It might not have been an obvious location for this thought, but it did occur to me that we can’t be too far away from a goalkeeper who can score regularly with his puckouts.

With the improvements in physical conditioning, hurley technology, not to mention how purely the ball is being struck nowadays, this day is surely coming and coming fast.

Put it alongside the once-a-year complaints about the loss of traditional midfield play, if you like, but when you see goalies appearing regularly on the scoresheet from long-range frees, this next stage in the game is only a matter of time.

Priorities differ in sporting sphere

Scenes from professional life, number one.

You have to love these guys in Ulster Rugby. Seriously.

We’ve had the Jackson-Olding trial, a fetid mess that has made Ulster synonymous with . . . something all over the world. And then there are the debacles which have been working in parallel with that. The abrupt departure of their coach, don’t forget, the widely-respected Les Kiss and the impending departure of another well-regarded coach, Jonno Gibbes. The bizarre statement from the remaining players about the departure of their teammates. The advertisements. The protests.

Little wonder that Brian O’Driscoll described the province as a ‘basket case’ last week. The backlash from the basket case industry is bound to come, but before it does, I draw your attention to what seems to be exercising minds in Ulster Rugby.

The press. As in banning journalists from asking questions about the only matter regarding Ulster Rugby anyone was interested in. I know you’re probably saying, ‘oh, it’s all fun and games until the press gets a hit’, but consider this.

With everything that’s on the Ulster plate, this is what’s occupying their attention? Scenes from professional life, number two. I remain unmoved by the Premier League, which has generated more methane than a cow having a korma. Work away yourself, I’m grand here. Cold day in hell before I waste ten minutes of my time etc., etc.

But I take my hat off to Liverpool FC. Hanging a jersey from Sean Cox’s GAA club in its dressing-room was the kind of gesture that is its own explication. Bravo.

‘They want it for the front’

All you hear at the moment is talk of referendums and voting, which leads me - a little tangentially - to the next book I’m keen to acquire.

Amy Chozick is a political reporter with the New York Times and Vanity Fair recently ran an extract from her book Chasing Hillary, which details her experiences covering Hillary Clinton’s Presidential election campaign.

The headline should give you an indication of the chaos in that campaign (“Organisation don’t mean s—t“), but I was sold when I saw Chozick’s succinct description of a print journalist’s private obsessions.

“Despite all our talk about the web and ‘digital first,’“ she writes, “The six most beautiful words in the English language remained, ‘They want it for the front’. ”

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