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Saturday 22 October 2016

American football clash at Landsdowne Road will go ahead despite bitter dispute

Published 25/08/2016 | 16:55

The high-profile college football game between Boston College and Georgia Tech will go ahead as scheduled at the Aviva Stadium on September 3 despite a bitter dispute between the organisers and an Irish-based sporting organisation.

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The Aer Lingus College Football Classic will be broadcast coast to coast in the US by ESPN and is estimated to be worth up to €50m to the Irish economy. Close to 40,000 fans will attend the game, with up to half of those expected to travel to Dublin from overseas.

Six leading US high schools are also travelling to Ireland to play a tournament in Donnybrook Stadium.

However, the Irish American Football Association [IAFA]–  the national governing body for the sport in Ireland has launched a series of objections to the games going ahead next week.

A statement published on their website has claimed the games have not been "sanctioned" by the IAFA. They also allege that the organisers, a joint venture known as Irish American Events Limited [IAEL], do not have adequate insurance for the games and, in relation to the High Schools games, that there has been a breach of child protection guidelines.

The IAFA is also understood to have communicated this directly to the schools and to Philip Browne, chief executive of the IRFU, because of the games being hosted by the Aviva Stadium and Donnybrook. Other parties in the US and Ireland have also been contacted.

It’s understood, though, that the IRFU is satisfied that all the required paperwork for games in both stadia is in order and they have confirmed they are happy for the games to proceed.

“All insurances and mandatory legal requirements are in place to the complete satisfaction of all stakeholders involved,” said a spokesman for IAEL today.

He added that the claims around child protection are “without foundation”.

“Irish American Events are working closely with An Garda Siochana on all aspects of child protection and are fully compliant with the Irish Sports Council code of ethics guidelines and statutory vetting legislation.”

The promoters maintain they have no issue in recognising IAFA as the governing body for American Football in Ireland and certainly the parties entered negotiations about the hosting of this event in early 2015. However relations between the two parties broke down in June of this year and Irish American Events issued a statement from a spokesperson this afternoon where they outlined a list of alleged financial demands from the IAFA. understands that organisers have now complained to Minister for Sport Shane Ross that the actions of the IAFA are undermining this year’s event and the prospect of future similar events.

Aside from the game, a series of sporting, cultural and business events have been scheduled to promote Irish-American relations, and the event is being marketed under the umbrella, ‘Much More Than A Game’.

Several prominent Irish businesses are involved in the week-long event. Away from the sporting action, the highlight will be the Boston College CEO Global Event at the Mansion House, with a keynote speech by the chairman and CEO of Coca-Cola Muhtar Kent to a gathering of American, European and Irish businesses.

As the IAFA is formally recognised by Sporting Ireland as a national governing body it believes the power of sanctioning games in its sport rests solely with it. This is disputed by the promoters, who say the games come under the auspices of the American authorities. The game between Boston College and Georgia Tech is a regular season game in the American college football season.

A spokesperson for the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport said earlier this week that it encourages promoters to seek sanction for events from relevant NGBs, but added “there are no legislative provisions” that require it.

A spokesperson for the event told this afternoon that all games and events around ‘Much More Than A Game’ are proceeding as planned and that he looked forward to it being a success.

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