Ireland should be next in line for an International NFL Game

By Jimmy English

During a special NFL International Press Conference in the build up to the Super Bowl, it was revealed that Madrid would be the newest host city of an NFL game in Europe. Slated to take place in 2025 in the revamped Santiago Bernebau Stadium, this will be the fourth major European city (if you ignore Brexit) tasked with transforming into a temporary home for two NFL franchises. It was rumored that Spain was being considered along with France as potential locations, and now that it’s official the ramifications are massive. The only question that remain: how long before we get an NFL game in Ireland?

The short answer to that is: sooner than you think. In fact, this very query was put to the man in charge of expanding the NFL internationally, Peter O’Relly at the same press conference. His response, despite being deliberately vague, was encouraging. O’Reily spoke of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ deep ties to Ireland and the momentum being gained through their marketing efforts here. And while he refrained from definitively confirming a fixture, he alluded that there was “more to come”. So read into that what you will.

Indeed, if an NFL game in Ireland is to become a reality, the Steelers are all but certain to play the part of the designated home team. Since acquiring the rights to officially launch into the Irish market in May last year, they have been actively developing and engaging with an extremely passionate fan base. The turnout at their Watch Party late last year is testament alone to the appetite for a live NFL game in Ireland. Not only are the Pittsburgh team nurturing a solid existing base of followers, they’re also fostering a new wave of Steeler Nation as well as general NFL fans. Concurrently, they have been aligning closely with the GAA and positioning themselves cleverley to a particular demographic, so it doesn’t take much of a stretch to guess where any potential game here might take place. The fact that they already played here back in 1997 should only strengthen the case for a return in the not too distant future.

So why exactly should Ireland get an NFL game? Well, first off we’re a sports mad bunch. Even people with the slightest of passing interests in the sport would be enticed to experience the spectacle. Just imagine 80,000 odd fans packed into Croke Park for a game? It actually gives me goosebumps to think about. Casual observers aside, Ireland now has thousands of NFL fans. These loyal supporters have been forced to travel to the UK, Germany and even further afield to witness live games for too long. They have definitely earned a home soil fixture. We also shouldn’t forget that Ireland already has a successful track record of hosting major international American football games. Only last summer Notre Dame and Navy played out a sold out bout under the lights at the Aviva Stadium. Over 40,000 fans traveled to the Emerald Isle for that one – a college game. Just imagine how many would come over for an actual NFL game? Anyone who tells you that the market doesn’t exist here clearly hasn’t a clue what they’re talking about.

The case for an NFL game in Ireland is as strong as it’s ever going to be. We have the fans, the passion and the facilities. Now, all we need is for the football gods to gaze favourably upon our fair Island and grant our wish!