St. Louis Rams to become a London NFL franchise? What this means for Ireland
By: Cian Fahey | Published Friday, January 20, 2012, 2:00 PM | Updated Friday, January 20, 2012, 2:00 PM
Today, the NFL announced that the 2012 regular season game held in London will see the St. Louis Rams hosting the New England Patriots on October 28th.
That is not all however...
The Rams have agreed to give up a home game each season for the next three years in order to play a game in London every year. Each of those games will be played in Wembley Stadium as the NFL stated that each international series game, held in the UK
, between now and 2016 will be played in Wembley Stadium.
For the majority of Irish NFL fans, the fact that the New England Patriots are one of the teams traveling across the Atlantic this year will be a lightning rod of excitement in the short-term. However, many will still be left wondering when, or if, Ireland will ever get to host a regular season game.
American football has been played in Ireland in the past, and the NCAA have already scheduled to bring Notre Dame and Navy here later this calender year. Despite the excitement that comes with the college game, NFL fans will still be left with a bittersweet taste in their mouth if the professional game never comes.
Irish fans can be forgiven for feeling disgruntled. While London could be set to even establish a franchise
in England, Ireland is yet to even be involved in the discussions despite a strong fan-base and all the facilities to host football.
Croke Park is a record-breaking stadium, after the 80,208 attendance to Munster and Leinster's heineken cup semi-final in 2009 set the record for a club/provincial match, that is capable of challenging any NFL stadium, or Wembley.
The stadium previously hosted two American football games in the 1990s when the Pittsburgh Steelers and Chicago Bears played a pre-season game there, while Navy and Notre Dame's original matchup for this year's rematch took place also.
The hope was that this year's international series would take place in Ireland opposed to Wembley. Those hopes have now been dashed despite the government previously negotiating
with the NFL.
Hope, however, is not completely lost for Irish fans, provided that their patience can continue. The NFL may have already assigned a game to Wembley for the next three seasons, but multiple games are expected to take place internationally after next season.
With other stadiums in the UK already being ruled out, Croke Park becomes the obvious choice if commissioner Roger Goodell wants to bring his brand across even more shores.
Multiple games in a season doesn't rule out the possibility of using Wembley twice in one season, but the NFL have constantly reiterated their desires to become a global brand in recent years so establishing a foothold in another country will obviously appeal to them.
It's unlikely for them to move onto mainland Europe just yet, if they did Germany would be the most likely destination after the success of NFL Europe there.
Expect Goodell to have one eye on the success of the Notre Dame-Navy clash in Croke Park later this year. Wembley has already proven to be a big success, so much so that talk of an international franchise being established there doesn't seem foolish any more.
Ireland may have to wait at least another year for Dan Rooney to pull some strings and bring an NFL team to Ireland. Rooney is the American ambassador to Ireland who is based in Dublin.
Rooney's father founded the Pittsburgh Steelers NFL franchise, the team with the most Super Bowl rings in NFL history, and has previously talked about how he would love to bring his franchise to Ireland.
There has been some speculation as to whether Rooney will be returning to Pittsburgh sooner rather than later but that shouldn't be a major factor in whether the NFL comes to Ireland or not.
After all, the NFL is a business, and bringing the brand to Irish shores is a business venture.Tweeting @Cianaf