The cost of hosting a football match in Ireland

Organizers of the Ireland football season opener between Nebraska and the North West have a detailed to-do list covering everything from providing dumbbells, to plastering pubs with marketing material, and s ensure there is enough steak sauce and other condiments to last a week.

It’s all part of the cost of hosting the Aer Lingus College Football Classic over 4,000 miles across the Atlantic from the original grounds of Lincoln and Evanston, Illinois. .

The price to pay to play the game? $10 million, said John Anthony, founder and chief executive of Anthony Travel, a division of On Location and the game’s official travel sponsor.

An Irish press report put the price of the airfare at around $6 million to uproot the two schools and fly them to Dublin. Then there’s the Northwestern guarantee, which is the host school, as well as Nebraska’s expense coverage, as well as game day security, social events and field preparation.

There are also gigantic logistical challenges.

Start with the two teams traveling to Dublin with more than 80 players and an official group of dozens of athletic department coaches, support staff and school administrators – all of whom need to be fed and watered for around a year. week before August 27. Game.

Then there’s plenty of scheduled gymnastics involving practice time for both teams on a pitch adjacent to the 48,000-seat Aviva Stadium. Weightlifting and conditioning equipment will not be shipped to Dublin by a Boeing, so must be purchased in Ireland.

Nebraska will be in Ireland for nearly an entire week. (Casey Fritton)

Organizers also plan to roll out the green carpet for the teams and their fans, with thought-provoking rallies, sightseeing and marketing campaigns to convert a nation of futbol and rugby enthusiasts into avid college football fans.

The marketing has intensified recently, as cheerleaders from Nebraska and the North West traveled to Ireland in late April to build excitement and sell tickets to the general public in Ireland and Europe. (In Ireland, FYI, cheerleading has seen a resurgence in popularity and is now considered one of the fastest growing youth sports in the country.)

Travel, sightseeing and game week glamor aside, “we recognize this is a business trip” for the Cornhuskers and Wildcats, said John Anthony, Founder and Manager general of Anthony Travel, a division of On Location and the game’s official travel sponsor.

“They’re here to play a game and win it,” Anthony said in an interview. “Our job is to do our best to make everything about the game happen and make it a memorable experience.”

More than 18,000 fans from Nebraska and the North West are expected to travel from the United States to Dublin, while another 5,000 are expected from across Europe. The majority will likely be Nebraska fans, who, like their Northwestern counterparts, pay several thousand dollars for the travel and sightseeing experience, covering airfare, hotel and sightseeing packages, and train tickets. match.

Anthony wouldn’t divulge the number of tickets sold, except to say “we’re comfortable where we are. Our sales in the United States are good.

Regarding sales in Ireland, he said that after “a nice initial surge, sales continue to be steady, with lots of excitement around the pageantry and ‘razzmatazz’ of American college football. Some of the major retailers have joined as partners so they can promote the game throughout the summer.

The game is expected to generate over €63 million for the Irish economy, split across restaurants, hotels, pubs, golf courses, taxis, buses and everything in between.

The Big Ten game — week zero before the traditional start of the college football season — is also being broadcast to an American audience of about 3 million. The conference has yet to announce which network will air the game. Keep in mind that there is a six-hour time difference, but kickoff should be between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Central Time. Last year, Game of Week Zero was a noon central time on FOX.

Irish tourism officials are hoping the Nebraska game – following the Covid-induced cancellation of a scheduled 2021 game between the Big Red and Illinois – will serve as a springboard for a series of future Aer Lingus classics. The 2023 game will feature Notre Dame versus the Navy.

The stakes are high, especially from other cities around the world wanting to host a college football game in their city, said Brendan Meehan, commercial director of Irish American Events, one of the game’s organizers.

London, Frankfurt, Dubai and Sydney “all want college football games for their cities,” Meehan told the Dublin Independent. “So, as we said, these games are for Ireland to lose, but we could lose them… We need to make sure they are a success for everyone involved, for the traveling universities, for public and private stakeholders, and for game organizers.

Nebraska and Northwestern paid an official visit to Dublin in April.
Nebraska and Northwestern paid an official visit to Dublin in April. (Casey Fritton)

Lots of moving parts

A small army of consultants and other key behind-the-scenes staff from the Steering Committee meet regularly to ensure that the game week and game day festivities run smoothly.

Organizers hold at least one monthly phone call with each school, and representatives from Nebraska and Northwest athletics departments, alumni associations, events staff and development offices have made advance trips. at Dublin.

Nebraska had a team on the ground in Dublin in early May to launch tires, go over planning details and tour Aviva Stadium, the team hotel and practice facilities, among other stops.

Transforming the Aviva Stadium from a soccer field to a football pitch – complete with goal posts, game clocks and yard markings, for example – isn’t a big deal considering the experience gained during the game Boston College – Georgia Tech 2016 in Dublin.

The biggest challenge is the equipment because you “can’t exactly truck the equipment to Ireland,” said Anthony. It’ll be air-shipped and there’s a 15-page template on everything teams need for the game – uniforms, helmets, shoulder pads, game day supplies, video gear, and more.

As for dumbbells and such, each school submits a list of all the weights they are looking for.

Schools are responsible for handling passport documents, and the US Embassy helps streamline customs and passport procedures, Anthony said.

Developing the right menu for players and food options in Dublin will be a big part of the week.  This is a photo of one of the many cheese shops in Dublin city centre.
Developing the right menu for players and food options in Dublin will be a big part of the week. This is a photo of one of the many cheese shops in Dublin city centre. (Casey Fritton)

food consumption

In the past, Nebraska trucked its food to bowling alley destinations. But not this trip. Neither Nebraska nor Northwestern can bring food from home due to customs policies, said Andrew Sims, director of football operations.

Meal preparation will be handled primarily at the Nebraska team hotel, he said.

Nutritionists and dieticians in Ireland have met their university counterparts to discuss planning meals and snacks, including the quantities needed to satisfy the gigantic offensive and defensive linemen. Planning includes sample menus and tastings.

Arrangements are even made for favorite sauces and condiments.

Preparation is similar to any road trip, Sims said, as Nebraska works on menus directly with the host hotel nationally, and even for home games in Lincoln.

This is one of the larger pub areas within walking distance of Aviva Stadium where many Husker fans might frequent on game day.
This is one of the larger pub areas within walking distance of Aviva Stadium where many Husker fans might frequent on game day. (Casey Fritton)


Both schools will bring cheerleading teams, mascots and at least some of their marching bands to participate in pep rallies to create pregame and gametime vibes, said Leslie Wurzberger, senior vice president. sports experiences at On Location.

“Irish people love raz-ma-taz,” she said.

There will also be a Friday afternoon pep rally in Dublin’s city center district to generate friendly social interaction “between locals and travellers”, Wurzberger said.

Tailgating? Yes, but in the Irish way, that is to say the pubs.

To create the match day experience, fans can visit Dublin city center pubs, approximately one mile from the stadium. Some pubs will feature Irish bands, dancers and pyrotechnics as well as Irish specialties to “infuse culture around a meal”, Wurzberger said.

Officials are also working on transport plans to transport supporters from the city center or from their hotel to the stadium.

The trip to Dublin, of course, is much more than the game. Lunches and private parties between boosters and Irish business leaders are on the program, as are bus tours and a stop at one of the biggest attractions. of Ireland, the Guinness beer Storehouse.

“Ireland are excited for the game,” Wurzberger said. “It’s a big party.”

Steve Rosen writes about sports business for HuskerOnline. Contact Steve with questions, comments and story ideas at [email protected]

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