Plans to play an NFL game in Dublin’s Croke Park as part of the Gathering of the Diaspora in 2013 have moved a step closer.
The Gaelic Athletic Association has confirmed that a high powered NFL delegation will visit their famous home venue on Friday.
American Football’s power brokers will tour Croker to assess the stadium’s potential as a host ground for a top flight game, set to follow in the footsteps of next year’s visit by Notre Dame.
The Irish Examiner has reported that NFL chiefs are keen to play regular season games in Europe to boost their sports’ marketing power.
Ireland is seen as a natural fit for such a fixture by the NFL with the GAA close to finalising a formal bid document for a 2013 match.
Croke Park stadium director Peter McKenna told the Examiner: “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.
“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 in 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.”
McKenna also told the paper that an NFL fixture would represent a major coup for the Irish economy.
He added: “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.”
NFL owners are supportive of plans to play more games in Europe.
League commissioner Roger Goodell is quoted by the Examiner as saying: “It’s clear that there’s support for more than one game. The ownership has passed a resolution allowing us to do that.
“We may do that in London 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.”