The Pittsburgh Steelers are boosting their presence in Ireland and hope to play a regular season game there, strengthening the already-strong ties between the two regions.
Driving the news: The NFL awarded the Steelers rights to expand their brand and activities for the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland as part of the NFL’s Global Markets Program.
- “Our aspirations long term are to play a game in Ireland,” said Daniel Rooney, the team’s director of business development and strategy, according to the Associated Press. “As we move through the process, we’ll be evaluating all options.”
- The Steelers, one of the NFL’s marquee franchises, can also host events such as fan and youth football activities throughout Ireland.
- The Global Markets Program license also allows the Steelers to engage corporate sponsors and merchandise sales as well as marketing relationships throughout Ireland.
History test: Ireland has never hosted a regular-season NFL game, but the Steelers beat the Chicago Bears 30-17 in a preseason matchup at Dublin’s Croke Park in 1997. Croke Park holds 82,300 and would likely be the site of any future Steelers game.
Deep roots: Late Steelers Chairman Dan Rooney’s ties with Ireland were notable, as he served as the U.S. Ambassador there from 2009-12 and helped establish the Ireland Funds, a program founded to promote and support peace, culture, education and community development across Ireland and among Irish communities around the world.
- Rooney also worked to further the knowledge of the game of football throughout Ireland, efforts that included an annual flag football contest.
- The Steelers can restart those traditions while broadening their reach—the team has already launched dedicated Irish social media accounts and is planning a fan watch party there.
- “My family has deep roots throughout Ireland and being able to connect with our fans across the Island is something special to our organization,” said Steelers President Art Rooney II, whose grandfather, Art Rooney Sr., was the founding owner of the NFL franchise.
Irishburgh?: The Steelers announcement is the latest connecting Pittsburgh to the Emerald Isle.
- UPMC already has a major presence in Ireland, operating nearly a dozen hospitals and clinics throughout the island. In 2020, the healthcare giant announced it was opening a Global Technology Operations Center in Kilkenny, Ireland to support the ongoing expansion.
- Additional corporate ties include K&L Gates, KraftHeinz, Federated Hermes, Viatris, Accenture, and many more.
- The Pittsburgh metro region also has strong ancestral ties to Ireland. According to the Pew Research Center, Pittsburgh ranked first among large U.S. cities with 17 percent of its population claiming Irish ancestry.