Monday 22 January 2018

For one Irishman, the end of the World Cup marks half the job complete in Brazil

Germany players celebrate winning the World Cup final at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro
Germany players celebrate winning the World Cup final at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro
Fireworks explode over Maracana stadium during the trophy ceremony after Germany defeated Argentina in the final of the 2014 World Cup in Rio de Janeiro

While most sports fans continue to pore over a wonderfully exciting World Cup tournament, Dubliner Diarmuid Crowley cannot afford such luxuries. Planning for the Olympics in Rio is well underway and he is just half way through his role in Brazil.

For many sports enthusiasts, the chance to witness the world’s biggest sporting event up close is the realisation of a dream. With a job description involved relocating to Rio de Janeiro in order to firstly over see World Cup and then the 2016 Olympic Games, the 47 year-old is understandably enjoying his role as Director of Operations at IMX, the largest sports and entertainment company in South America.

“It was a great opportunity,” he readily admits after relocating to Rio last year after a number of visits. His role has a number of facets to it, but the primary function involved the selling and premium seating in the Maracana, the Estádio Beira-Rio in Porto Alegre and Recife’s Arena Pernambuco. Given his distinguished track record in this particular area globally, the Irish graduate was an obvious candidate for the position.

After joining the sports management company IMG in 1997 and managing the Dublin office from 1999 to 2001, Crowley moved back to the London offices two years later and became the sales director during the rebuilding of the famous Wembley stadium, raising finances for re-development by pre-selling corporate and premium seating.

“Wembley was the first venue outside the US to be financed almost exclusively through the pre-sale of corporate facilities, raising close to $1billion on long-term contracted revenues,” he explained to

That success led to his involvement in similar projects around the world and subsequently to Rio when the opportunity presented itself.

The majority of his work was in the lead up to the event itself - “we were the planners” before handing the reins over to FIFA before the start of the competition.

Brazilian captain Thiago Silva is in the company of national surfers, Formula One driver Felipe Massa and star striker Neymar af sporting stars represented by IMX and Crowley says meeting with the skipper led to a greater appreciation of the pressure the Brazilian players were under.

“To see such pressure on the shoulders of a 29 year-old is incredible,” he said. “There is no number two in this country. It’s football, football, football.”

The competition ended in despair for the hosts but Crowley believes that perspective is needed to assess the World Cup embarrassment, an easier observation perhaps from an outsider. “It’s only sport and needs to be put into perspective, but I did feel for the people on a personal level. It affected the national identity and self-confidence.”

It is not surprising that his most memorable moment from the 32 days of football involved the hosts.

“The tension surrounding the Brazil and Chile encounter was just incredible. While the 7-1 defeat to Brazil was an embarrassment, had they lost to Chile it really would have been a disaster.”

Diarmuid Crowley, left, with friend Tom McCann at the World Cup Final in the Maracana Stadium.

With genuine fears beforehand that Brazil was falling behind in completing their stadium requirements on time and continued social unrest, were there any doubts before the first ball was kicked in anger?

“We didn’t have any concerns as the Maracana was opened a year ago for the Confederations Cup, though South Brazil was a risk and FIFA did have concerns there," he says.

“There was a heavy security presence in Rio throughout and although I heard of a few isolated incidents, some of the those pre-tournament fears never came to pass.”

The role is not without its challenges. In a workforce of 107, Crowley and an English colleague are the only non-Brazilians in the Rio office.  Brushing up on Portuguese was essential.

After a short return visit to Ireland, Crowley will return to Rio to continue the preparations for the Olympics in two years, though time is certainly not on his side.

While London had more than three years to prepare for the last Olympic Games, the small matter of the World Cup has meant that time constraints will be pushed to the limits.

“The Olympics is far more complex than the World Cup. There is a shorter time frame, there are more sports and it will all be taking place in one city. There will be an ongoing tendering process over the next 12 months so it will be a busy period,” he explains.

Away from work, he happily reports that his wife and two young daughters have settled well in their new surroundings and this can in part be attributed to cultural similarities between the two countries.

“Rio is an easy place for Irish people to settle in,” he explains.

“I have heard the Irish being described as the ‘Brazilians of Europe’ because both are easy to mix with and like to party.”

For one Irishman in Brazil there may be little time to join the local festivities. One sporting party may be over, but another is just beginning.

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