Organisers of the Navy-Notre Dame game, due to be played in Dublin on August 29 and worth an estimated €60m-plus to the economy, are proceeding as planned for the event while monitoring the escalating coronavirus crisis.
The college football game, dubbed the Aer Lingus College Football Classic, is a repeat of the meeting between the Fighting Irish and the Midshipmen at the same Aviva Stadium venue back in 2012 when an estimated 30,000-35,000 Americans converged on the city for a game won by Notre Dame.
An extra 36 transatlantic flights were required to bring in the tourists eight years ago and a US Navy warship docked in the bay. A huge success, it was followed by the meeting of Penn State and UCF in Croke Park two years later, and of Boston College v Georgia Tech in 2016 at the Aviva.
This August’’s game was announced in October 2018 as the first of five such American football contests at the stadium said to be worth over €300m to the exchequer here the course of the next five years. It’’s importance was franked at the time by the presence at the launch of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.
The weekend is about far more than just one game of football.
Two varsity high school football games, featuring sides from Arizona, Connecticut, Florida and Illinois, are due to be played at Energia Park the night before and the whole occasion is an invaluable networking opportunity for businesses on both sides of the Atlantic and Tourism Ireland.
Illinois and Nebraska are already pencilled in for the second chapter in August of 2021.
“We are aware of the global challenges regarding COVID-19 and want the world to be safe, healthy and enjoyable for all,” the organisers, Irish American Events, told the Irish Examiner. “With that goal in mind, we are committed to delivering a safe and successful 2020 Aer Lingus College Football Classic.
“In accordance with communications from the World Health Organization, and Irish and US governments for events scheduled in late August, we are currently moving ahead as planned for the game and all surrounding events. We are actively monitoring the situation and will liaise with the relevant international, national, local authorities, and the participating schools to ensure the safety and well-being of all involved with this event in August. While we appreciate circumstances are changing daily, we continue planning for an amazing experience in Ireland.”
The odds against mount by the day. Full-on practises begin at the start of August but football-related prep work starts a month earlier and a number of high-profile sporting events due to be hosted in July have already fallen by the wayside with more to follow.
Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly told ESPN recently that there should be a minimum of “four weeks of conditioning” done by student athletes before they start camp. That’’s a July 1st start. Respected ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstriet believes the entire season is in serious jeopardy.
“I’’ll be shocked if we have NFL football this fall, if we have college football,” he told ESPN Radio. “I’’ll be so surprised if that happens. Just because from what I understand, people that I listen to, you’’re 12 to 18 months from a (coronavirus) vaccine. I don’’t know how you let these guys go into locker rooms and let stadiums be filled up and how you can play ball. I just don’’t know how you can do it with the optics of it.”
The majority of remaining tickets for the Dublin game were sold on March 20th with the cheapest left on Ticketmaster now costing €225.