US college football game planned for 2022 in Dublin
Aer Lingus College Football Classic could generate up to €63 million for economy
The Nebraska Cornhuskers and the Northwestern Wildcats in action. The game could bring some 23,000 visitors to the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Steven Branscombe/Getty Images
The organisers of a series of US college football games are aiming to tempt at least 23,000 US and European visitors to the Aviva Stadium in Dublin for a game in August next year estimated to be worth up to €63 million to the local economy.
The meeting between the Northwestern University Wildcats, from Chicago, and the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers for the Aer Lingus College Football Classic is the first sporting major international sporting event to be formally announced for Ireland since the third wave of the pandemic upended the economy and society, before subsiding in recent months.
Irish American Events (IAE), the series’ promoter, is aiming to attract 18,000 visiting fans from the United States to Dublin for the game on the last Saturday in August 2022. The majority of those would be expected to come from Nebraska, one of the top teams in college football. IAE also hopes to tempt 5,000 US expatriates and other US football fans based in Germany and other European countries.
With the Aviva’s capacity set at 48,000 for the event, that leaves up to 25,000 seats to be sold to locals. The organisers plan a series of corporate events in Dublin to operate around the game, while many of the US visitors would be expected to holiday in Ireland before or afterwards.
IAE’s investors include restaurateur Padraic O’Kane, who operates Fire in Dublin’s Mansion House, and a US sports travel agency, Anthony Travel. The organising committee is chaired by the Glen Dimplex executive chairman, Neil Naughton. The events is also financially supported by the State through the tourism agencies, Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland, as well as Dublin City Council, with further backing from Aer Lingus.
IAE first organised a game in Dublin in 2016, when Georgie Tech took on Boston College in Dublin. A proposed meeting between Notre Dame and Navy for 2020 was scuppered by the pandemic, followed by 2021’s game, which was to have been between Nebraska and Illinois.
Northwestern, as the home team, is understood to have commanded a fee in excess of $5 million (€4 million) to have the game moved to Dublin in 2022.
“The vaccination programmes are going very well so we are working on the basis of a full stadium. We would normally announce a game two years in advance, so 15 months out, we have decided to go for it,” said Mr O’Kane, who also operates the Sole fish restaurant in central Dublin.
“We will follow all best practice – whatever we are told to do as regards safety, we will do. This will be the most competitive game we have brought to Dublin. We are expecting a sea of red from Nebraska, who have consecutively sold out their 85,000-seater stadium for all games since 1962.”