Dublin entering the final countdown

EVENT organisers said yesterday that there were only a few hundred tickets left for sale for tomorrow night’s Europa League Final in the Aviva Stadium — yet there is still no guarantee that the game will be a sellout.

The anomaly arises from the fact that some 7,000 tickets were purchased when the initial international allocation for the game went on sale — but that was at a time when some of European football’s bigger guns, including Liverpool and Man City, still had designs on reaching Dublin.

Now, with the final being contested by two Portuguese sides — Porto and Braga — it simply won’t be known until before kick-off at 7.45pm just how many of those 7,000 football fans are actually going to turn up for the first European club football final ever hosted by this country.

A visit to the Aviva yesterday revealed that the arena has already been transformed for the occasion. The green and gold livery of the 2011 Europa League Final is everywhere and, by judicious reshuffling of seats, the name of the stadium sponsors has been transformed into an abstract pattern to comply with UEFA’s strict commercial requirements. Even the huge Aviva sign on the exterior of the building has been hidden from sight, a reminder that, for one night only, this will be the Dublin Arena.

Project coordinator Declan Conroy brandished a thick, glossy dossier yesterday, the UEFA template for European finals which effectively requires that local organisers do their business, literally, by the book. To date, UEFA have made five official site visits, bringing in 40 to 50 inspection personnel at a time. All aspects of the event, in the stadium and in the city, from safety and security to transport and fanzones, have had to meet strict requirements.

Complicating matters is that the game happens to coincide with the Queen’s visit to Ireland.

“It has obviously presented extra challenges,” said Declan Conroy, “but our planning has taken into account the traffic restrictions in the city.”

Some 80 to 90% of chartered air traffic for the game will be in and out of Dublin on the same day, with Porto fans being bussed straight from the airport to their fanzone at the RDS and Braga supporters being ferried by a fleet of coaches to their gathering place at the Point Village.

Once in the stadium, the rival supporters will probably be only dimly aware of the mammoth scale of the operation which goes into hosting a European final and broadcasting it live to an estimated television audience of 40 million viewers.

TV3 will have the honour of being host broadcaster. They will be one of 52 different broadcasters on site from more than 20 countries.

The press box has been extended to house 1,000 media and there will be 120 photographers. 200 volunteers are on board to help ensure things run smoothly at the airport, stadium and in the city for the 28,000 visitors expected.

Inevitably, the fact it’s an all-Portuguese final may, outside of Portugal at least, rob the event of some of its potential glamour but there’s still no getting away from the fact that tomorrow night will be historic for the game in this country.

For the FAI, Dublin City Council and other key stakeholders including the Dublin Airport Authority, the Aviva Stadium, An Garda Siochána and Dublin Bus, the culmination of months and even years of hard work is now less than 24 hours away. Don’t try telling any of them that it’s only a game.


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