EXPOSED: NFL At Croker Story Is A Sham*

Donny Mahoney
By Donny Mahoney
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I have to say I was shocked to read this evening of mooted plans to bring the NFL to Croke Park next autumn. For one, there's a mooted lock-out next season and the last thing the NFL would doing at the moment is negotiating matches in Dublin. I know Dan Rooney, Steelers chairman emirtus, is the Ireland ambassador, but it's hard to see the logic of the NFL, one of the most profit-driven organizations in sport, bringing their brand to a country of 4 million.

So I did a bit of digging. The story was first reported by Irish Central, website of NYC expat rag the Irish Voice. Their headline is "Pittsburgh Steelers Ben Roethlisberger wants to play in Ireland". Their story is sourced in an interview Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger did with the Beaver County Times before the Steelers game with the Jets. Here's the money quote:


Then yesterday, NYC expat rag the Irish Echo quoted the same Beaver County Times story only with this headline: 'Steelers may play NFL game at Croker'.

Echo journalist Susan Falvella Garraty then she uses Big Ben's quotes to hypothesize that a Steelers game in Ireland may be afoot and musters plenty of wishful thinking:

Perhaps hearing a whisper on the Three Rivers wind, Roethlisberger recently said he would like to bring a regular NFL game to the Emerald Isle.

Perhaps is right. Falvella Garraty says the Echo "have learned that some groundwork has already been laid for a regular season game at the GAA headquarters which has a seating capacity in excess of 80,000." That may be true, but the groundwork may also be in place for an AC/DC gig or the Bolshoi Ballet at Croker. Just because the ground work is in place doesn't mean the league is anywhere near giving Ireland a game. Mary Hanafin, naturally enough, welcomed the match, which gave the story some legs. has spoken with a person in the Department of sport who confirmed that 'preliminary talks had taken place'. though the GAA and the Steelers did not comment. The NFL schedule is released in mid-April which only gives both sides 2 months to sort this out. Would the GAA need a vote to approve this? Mary Hanafin is in the running for the Fianna Fail deputy post at the moment, and given her bad few weeks of publicity, I wonder if this is just some positive publicity stunt for her.

While I, for one, would love to see the NFL in Dublin, there's serious reasons to believe this story is all smoke and mirrors. Look at the story from the NFL's side. There's no reason for a match in Ireland beyond Rooney's sentimentality and pull. Would the Steelers drop the revenue of a home game (80,000 tickets sold plus everything else on top). The NFL has not disclosed plans about matches in London for the 2012 season, although there was talk of holding four games in London in 2012 (which have never come to pass). Dan Rooney will be on Off The Ball next week and can hopefully clarify matters. Until then, I'm not holding my breath.

(* in my opinion)

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