The numbers associated with American college football are staggering

The numbers associated with American college football are staggering

When it comes to sports business, American football, and the National Football League (NFL) in particular, is the big dog in the United States. The playing power of the players, the amount of television and sponsorship deals and the size of the audience combine to create a juggernaut that sits above all other sports in the US. Forbes lists the average value of NFL teams at $300,000 each.

It is along with its professional counterpart the amateur sport of college football, itself a multi-billion dollar industry. It draws a number of comparisons to our beloved GAA – amateur players playing in front of stadiums full of die-hard fans and the engine behind it generating massive sponsorship money and television numbers.

But to truly appreciate the scale of college football, it’s worth digging into some jaw-dropping numbers. College football itself ranks as the second most popular sport in the country when attendance and viewership are combined, bigger than baseball and basketball. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has released a record revenue of $16 billion for the 2021 fiscal year.

The NFL hosts professional athletes, playing 16 games on average per week during the season. The standard of college football is huge with 65 games played every weekend in the top division alone. And while most NFL stadiums host up to 65,000 fans, college football averages 100,000 per game.

College football is widely considered to have a deep culture in terms of inter-team rivalry and passionate fans due to the fact that it is more urban than the more urban-based NFL. College football is often the only show in town. For example, Nebraska, which does not have an NFL team (or any professional sports franchise), holds the record for the longest streak sold out in the US. For 60 years they have filled their 85,000 seat stadium, so that on game day, Memorial Stadium is the third largest city in Nebraska.

In recent years, London has become the home away from home of the NFL with Wembley and other stadiums hosting major games, bringing good attendance and interest. Likewise, Ireland has become a destination outside of the US for college football and several sports over the past decade, none more famous than the Aviva Stadium sell-out of Navy and Notre Dame in 2012.

The Notre Dame alumni arrived in Dublin in September in unprecedented numbers, with 35,000 fans traveling across the Atlantic for the game. To put this in context, many American fans went to Dublin to watch Navy take on Notre Dame in the Aviva Stadium, instead of going to London last month for the Olympic Games.

Economically, Ireland benefited greatly from the rich Notre Dame travel support. Many spent about five days here, and did not just spend their money in the capital. The economic benefit of the festival was calculated to exceed €100m, and the event was used as a platform to launch Tourism Ireland’s ‘Collecting’ programme, which was so successful in 2013.

As the ‘home’ team on the day, the Navy were tasked with organizing the event. This model evolved with the creation of Ireland American Events Limited – a partnership between the Irish company Corporate.ie and America’s Anthony Travel, which is part of On Location Experience, one of the leading sports and entertainment companies in the US.

The new initiative began an attempt to make college football an annual event in Ireland, which would incorporate the many Irish-American charities surrounding the game. The Aer Lingus College Football Series was born and attracting the famous Navy and Notre Dame fixtures back to Ireland next year is a great competition for promoters.

Despite several attempts by Covid to remove it, this series returns next Saturday at Aviva Stadium when the Northwestern Wildcats from Chicago will host the Nebraska Cornhuskers. The Big Ten Conference’s top game will open the 2022 season with Aviva Stadium expected to host more than 35,000. The game broadcast on Fox will have a US TV audience of around 3.5 million, providing another money-can’t-buy opportunity to promote Ireland in the US.

This is the first time a team will travel to Ireland, and they are coming with a force from title sponsors, Aer Lingus. On game day, 230 football players, 146 band members and 32 cheerleaders will take to the field.

The match represents the biggest international event in Ireland since 2019 with 13,000 US fans and 3,000 European fans attending the game week in Dublin. Overall, the game is worth an estimated €63m to the economy.

Home games for college football teams generate a lot of money so traveling teams work with promoters to stop some of this. But there is a bigger picture of why they came.

The tournament organizer for the US side, John Anthony explains, “First and foremost, the colleges see this as a great once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for their students and fans. In addition, there are unique opportunities for universities to build international relationships in business, government, and academia. “

Examples of these relationships and additional events will be seen in Dublin this week. On the business front, the famous Ireland-USA CEO Club Lunch, which will take place the day before the game at Mansion House, brings together influential Irish, US and European CEOs, as well as senior leaders traveling with links to all universities.

Thousands of people are expected to attend the traditional meetings in Merrion Square on the eve of the match and on the day of the match, the unique tradition of the retailgate party will take over the Temple Bar area before the match.

The 5.30pm start time this year will suit the locals better than in previous years, allowing people to enjoy these events around the city before arriving at the Aviva for the main event. Tickets are still on sale through Ticketmaster so if you want to see what the fuss is about, this is your chance.

Kevin Moore is the managing director of Legacy Communications www.legacycommunications.ie

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