The organizers of the 2020 Aer Lingus College Football Classic have expressed their excitement over the event, and stated that the opportunity of having American football back at the Aviva was an opportunity “too big to lose.”
At the launch of the series at the Aviva Stadium on Thursday morning, An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar revealed that the first game will be Notre Dame v Navy on Saturday 29th August 2020 at the Aviva Stadium.
“I look forward to the first game of the series with the return of Notre Dame vs Navy in August 2020; I have no doubt it will be a hugely popular occasion.”
It was also announced that having American football in Ireland will be an annual event, with the other games to be played between 2020 and 2024.
In 2012, 28,000 Notre Dame fans and 7,000 Navy fans came to Dublin for “the largest movement of Americans ever outside of the States for a sporting event including the Olympics”, according to Padraic O’Kane, of Irish American Events Ltd.
“The last game came in 2016 before financial difficulties and government intervention meant we lost the deal to have the college football teams over in Ireland”, he said, while talking to Pundit Arena.
“We’ve now got the financial model to announce the series today and its great news.”
While the Aer Lingus College Football Classic is only a friendly game, O’Kane did not rule out the prospect of having a competitive college football game in Ireland in years to come.
He also spoke about the economic and marketing benefits of staging the series in Dublin.
“The opportunities outside of sport are massive in relation to branding and off showing off Dublin and also having somewhere between 20,000 and 40,000 Americans here on the ground depending on what the game is.”
“Navy v Notre Dame is the longest running football game in the states consecutively so it’s a great opportunity for them to come back.”
O’Kane hopes that the new broadcast time of 5 pm, rather than midday, will bring better television ratings in America.
“The average television audience [of previous American football games staged in Ireland] was 2 and a half million, this is projected at 4 million plus US live TV viewers.”
Orla McAleese, the General Manager of IAFA (Irish American Football Assocation) expressed her excitement over the effect that the series will have on Irish American football players.
“It’s fantastic for our players. We have over 1500 registered members of our association and 22 kitted teams.
“It’s a massive opportunity, purely educationally-wise, so we can start doing coaching clinics with them and getting the knowledge and experience that they have.
“You can watch American football more regularly now on TV because of Sky and ESPN, so people are seeing it and getting more involved in it.
“Having something like this always sets up a catalyst and it will always help our sport here in Ireland.”
Neil Naughton, the Chairman of the Game Steering Committee, spoke about the involvement of Aer Lingus in the project and what benefits will come from having the series back in Ireland.
“[Aer Lingus’ mission] corresponds with our mission to make the Atlantic Ocean a lot smaller and increase tourism trade.
“I do believe that the series will bring American football to a new level in Ireland.
“Since these relations have been established, I’d love to see Irish teams going to the US, going to Notre Dame to play the exhibition games.
“The level of football in Notre Dame, it’s a professional regime. The student-athletes live like professional athletes… we can only benefit from learning from that.
“The IRFU are also in contact and they are mutually benefitting from the process, as has Irish sport in general.
The last game between Notre Dame and Navy in Ireland in 2012 resulting in an estimated €100m boost for the national economy. Naughton hopes that the game in 2020 will have similar financial success.
“People are going to have come to Ireland a week before the game just to get here. They will hopefully spend a few days in Dublin and then they could go on travel the length and breadth of Ireland.
“We believe that the last Notre Dame game, there were 35,000 people, over that weekend, the spend will be €80-100 million.
“The fact that it will happen every year for Aer Lingus is massive, instead of doing it every other year. Their mission is to increase trans-Atlantic trade, this is a great vehicle for them to be able to do that.”
In America, college football is just as popular as the NFL. London has made itself the home of the NFL in Europe, and it is now hoped that with events such as the Aer Lingus College Football Club Classic 2020, Dublin could itself as the home of college football in Europe.
Aer Lingus are the title sponsors of the series which will include a full program of high-profile business, academic, cultural and sporting events including a number of US High School football fixtures as part of the overall experience under the now established game umbrella #MuchMoreThanAGame.