The Aviva Stadium - Commercial Independence for the FAI at Last

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After years of endeavour by the Football Association of Ireland (FAI), its new €410 million Aviva Stadium is at last complete.

After years of endeavour by the Football Association of Ireland (FAI), its new €410 million Aviva Stadium is at last complete. A beautiful, sweeping structure signaling a more prosperous stage for the game in Ireland. Welcome change from the old Lansdowne Road, a venue which by its end was unsuited to top sporting occasions.

Which, as so wonderfully observed by the Irish Independent, ‘‘smacked of orange peel and cigarettes at half-time’’. The stadium is a joint venture between the FAI and the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU). Together they share ownership and are responsible for covering over half the project’s total cost - a share of €220 million; Ireland’s Government contributed the other €190 million.

Large figures for all parties, particularly in view of the country’s economic crash, but necessary to replace an aged, dilapidated, small ground that provided only limited income for the FAI. Now the Association can begin to enjoy the financial independence that such a stadium can bring. ‘‘We rented Lansdowne Road,’’ says Communications Executive Eoghan Rice, ‘‘so co-owning the Aviva Stadium reduces costs and opens the door to many new commercial opportunities.’’

In 2007, following a two year planning process, the go-ahead for the redevelopment was given. As the bulldozers’ emerged the ground, used since 1872 by the Lansdowne Rugby Football Club, adopted regularly for football in the 1970s, disappeared in a summer. The grass and terraces good and gone. What remained for now were memories, some good, some not. 

Qualification to three World Cups (1990, 1994, 2002) and one European Championships (1988) under pragmatic managers Jack Charlton and Mick McCarthy; and the shame of 1995 as English hooligans rioted in the West Stand, leading to the abandonment of a pre-Euro ‘96 friendly. During the rebuild, Croke Park, the Gaelic Athletic Association’s (GAA) 82,500 capacity central Dublin headquarters, was leased to the FAI and IRFU.

Previously the GAA, representative of traditional Irish sports, namely Hurling and Gaelic football, had forbidden the ‘‘foreign’’ sports of football and rugby from sharing their grounds. ‘‘All property… owned or controlled by units of the Association shall… not be used… for Field Games other than those sanctioned’’, said their rules.

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Article published by kind permission of FC Business Magazine
Kevin Howland: +44 (0)191 442 4004 kevin@fcbusiness.co.uk
 

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