CROKE PARK STADIUM director Peter McKenna says their bid to host a money-spinning American football match in Dublin remains sound despite the announcement of a second London game in 2013.
Plans to bring a regular-season NFL game to GAA Headquarters were dealt a blow last night with the news that the Minnesota Vikings will host the Pittsburgh Steelers, owned by US Ambassador to Ireland Dan Rooney, next autumn.
The coveted second European game will be played on 29 September in Wembley Stadium, league officials confirmed. A regular-season game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and the San Francisco also takes place in Wembley on 27 October 2013.
The Steelers’ decision to travel to England next season is a significant setback to those pushing Croke Park’s credentials, who had hoped to use the connection with Rooney’s franchise to tip a competitive bidding process in their favour.
“The decision is to run the two games in Wembley. You can see some merit in that,” Croke Park stadium director Peter McKenna told TheScore.ie on Wednesday. “It builds on the success they’ve had hosting American football in Wembley.
Obviously we’re disappointed with that but the decision is with the NFL and I think you have to respect that.
A successful bid by Croke Park is projected to be worth about €50 million to the Irish economy. GAA Headquarters was among a number of European stadiums visited by an NFL reconnaissance team last December and the visiting delegates said that they were “impressed” by what the Jones’ Road venue had to offer.
Mindful of the college football clash between Notre Dame and Navy scheduled for the Aviva Stadium in September of this year, NFL bosses decided to defer further European expansion until 2013.
Rooney has long been one of the strongest supporters of a Dublin game, but with future European fixtures a real possibility, McKenna was clear that the decision to take the Steelers to London next season does not weaken Ireland’s future chances.
“I don’t think we would have got as far as we got in the bid process without Ambassador Rooney’s help, that’s for sure. He’s been an outstandingly supportive individual on that basis.
I think our bid stands on its own and we’re still going to continue to lobby and push for Dublin as being a venue in the future.
“Part of the pitch is that we’ve been very successful in hosting major events as a country heretofore. You’ve got the Tour de France, Tall Ships, the Ryder Cup and the collegiate game that was held in the Aviva. They’ve all shown that large international sports fixtures can be held here and held very, very successfully. So I think the merits of our bid haven’t diminished.
“We were unfortunate this time but never say never.”
Asked if he envisaged future opportunities for a Dublin game, McKenna said: “I do indeed. Yes.”