Friday 23 March 2018

Croker chief baffled by choice of Emirates

Croke Park would have loved to host the Republic of Ireland v Brazil friendly in Croke Park tomorrow night and are disappointed that it instead went to the Emirates Stadium.

"It's unfortunate that a big game involving an Irish team has gone to London when Croke Park was available. One of the reasons the GAA membership voted to open up Croke Park was so that international teams wouldn't have to go overseas for their games. It has worked well since 2007 and I can't understand why it hasn't continued for this game," said Croke Park Director Peter McKenna. He said that the "bones of a deal" for friendly games was put in place at a meeting with the FAI in November. As had been the case over the last few years, it was done on the basis that the GAA would deal directly with the FAI.

"That's how we've conducted our business with the FAI and IRFU because that was within the terms of the decision to open up Croke Park to rugby and soccer. It worked well for the past few years, including when Brazil played Ireland in Croke Park in 2008. Kentaro were involved then too but our deal was with the FAI. It's odd that a system which had worked so well two years ago couldn't be put in place again," said McKenna.

"It was different this time. Kentaro approached us to tender for the game just before Christmas but we told them that we couldn't deal directly with them. However, we would have been delighted to engage with the FAI as had been the case previously."

He said that the GAA were prepared to drop the Croke Park rent. However, formal negotiations never began with Kentaro, who informed the GAA in mid-January that Croke Park would not be in the equation.

"It's regrettable for everybody in the country that the game is not being staged in Dublin. The city -- and indeed the country -- needs every stimulus it can get right now.

"We would have loved to play our part in bringing the game to Dublin but unfortunately it didn't happen. In a year when Dublin is the European Capital of Sport it would have been a great boost to have Brazil here but it's not happening for reasons which have nothing to do with the GAA," said McKenna.

Martin Breheny

Irish Independent

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