The Irish American Football Association (‘IAFA’)¹ is disappointed at the approach taken by the United States Naval Academy (‘Navy’) to the issues surrounding the upcoming Emerald Isle Classic game to take place in Aviva Stadium on 1st September.
In Ireland, it is expected that large scale sporting events with significant commercial income should contribute to the sport at grassroots level and cooperate with the National Governing Body (‘NGB’)² on regulatory matters.
What happens from this point forward will have a major impact on all of sport in Ireland. There is a danger that if sanction contracts are not enforced, an undesirable precedent may be set whereby anyone can run a major sporting event in Ireland outside the control of the domestic NGB.
When this game was first proposed, the IAFA consulted with a variety of organisations including the Irish Sports Council in advance of putting together an appropriate set of development and promotional conditions for the event.
Due to the historic links between Ireland and visiting colleges, the IAFA decided not to seek a simple monetary contribution. It believed that both colleges might prefer to leave a tangible ‘lasting legacy’ in Ireland directly linked to the event. The principal grassroots development initiative is a flag football program to cater for up to 1,500 school children. There is also a provision to donate equipment to Irish Universities with football programs. It is the opinion of the IAFA that the two ‘pressure points’ in terms of the interest being generated by this event are the schools and universities sectors.
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The proposals were communicated to Navy Athletic Director, Mr. Chet Gladchuk on 21st October 2010. Following some discussions over the winter of 2010/11, the IAFA met with Navy representatives in Dublin on 16th March 2011. At that meeting, Navy Associate Athletic Director, Mr. Robb Dunn, who is also the designated ‘Event Manager’, signed the relevant documentation in the presence of the IAFA and of Navy.
Since then the IAFA has been disappointed with the lack of communication from Navy concerning the implementation of the development initiatives and on the game in general. There have also some activities which are of concern to the IAFA during this period. In May of this year, the IAFA contacted Mr. Gladchuk highlighting the communications difficulties and drawing his attention to some regulatory issues which the IAFA considered needed to be addressed. The IAFA received no response to this correspondence. In June, the IAFA, on foot of legal advice, contacted Mr. Dunn highlighting those aspects of the contract that had not been complied with and again received no response. At that stage, the IAFA’s legal representatives started communicating with Navy.
The IAFA has made continual efforts to resolve the issues amicably including keeping communication channels open, hosting formal settlement talks, seeking to have the matter referred to mediation and attempting to have the matter resolved by both sides’ legal representatives. Unfortunately Navy has refused to engage constructively. Navy walked out of the settlement talks. Navy refused mediation.
The IAFA has received advice from Senior Counsel on these matters and is confident of its legal position. The IAFA Board has advised that, due to Navy’s lack of engagement, the only option open to it is to seek the assistance of the High Court to enforce the sanction contract.
The IAFA has welcomed many visiting teams to its shores over the years including several NCAA teams. As a general rule, these teams have embraced the opportunity to forge links with the sport in Ireland. It is very disappointing that Navy has not adopted the same approach.
Irish American Football Association
10th August 2012
1. The IAFA is the officially recognised National Governing Body for the sport of American football in Ireland. It is a voluntary body funded mainly via membership subscriptions and Government grants. Its principal activities include the regulation and promotion of the sport in Ireland, running the IAFL (Irelands kitted football league), a schools flag football programme and the training and certification of coaches and officials.
2. In Ireland, National sporting Federations can apply for official recognition as a ‘National Governing Body’ of sport. This status is conferred on them via a Government agency. NGBs receive some development funding from central Government in return for regulating their sport.