Press Release

An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar is pictured at the announcement of the Aer Lingus College Football Series, a five-game sports tourism programme which kicks off with the return of Navy vs Notre Dame to the Aviva Stadium in 2020.  

  • Over €250 million economic value expected for series
  • Aer Lingus unveiled as sponsor of the five-game Aer Lingus College Football Series at the Aviva Stadium
  • Series kicks off with the return of Navy vs Notre Dame, scheduled for Saturday 29th August 2020
  • Game weeks will include a full program of high-profile business, academic, cultural and sporting events including a number of US High School football fixtures as part of the overall experience under the now established game umbrella #MuchMoreThanAGame


An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar T.D. today announced a five-game plan which will see the return of College Football to Ireland and an expected €250 million economic windfall

for the country over the coming years. The series kicks off with the return of Navy vs Notre Dame which will take place on Saturday 29th August 2020. Aer Lingus has been unveiled as title sponsor of the series at the Aviva Stadium with other fixtures and teams will be announced in due course.


The previous Navy vs Notre Dame fixture in the Aviva Stadium in 2012 was a huge success with 35,000 fans travelling from the US; resulting in one of the largest economic and tourism boosts for the country in recent memory. The fixture is one of the oldest rivalries in College Football and Notre Dame won the previous Dublin showdown 50-10. This Saturday (27th October 2018) the two teams will play their annual head-to-head game in San Diego.


Speaking at the announcement, An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar T.D. said he was delighted that College Football was returning to Ireland for a five-game programme: “College football is one of the greatest spectacles in world sport and to bring it back to Ireland for a five-game series is wonderful news for Irish tourism and for sports fans. Over 35,000 fans travelled to Ireland when Notre Dame and Navy last met in Dublin in 2012 and we will warmly welcome them and many others back for the Aer Lingus College Football Classics. Major games such as this one showcase Ireland as a location for international events and tournaments and put our world-leading hospitality and tourism sector front and centre. I look forward to the first game of the series with the return of Notre Dame vs Navy in August 2020; I have no doubt it will be a hugely popular occasion.”


Tourism and Economy

The Aer Lingus College Football Series, starting in 2020, will have a huge economic impact in Ireland, particularly in the tourism industry. In 2012, Navy vs Notre Dame generated €60 million for Dublin (source: Dublin Chamber of Commerce) and an estimated €100 million in total for Ireland. Driving tourism and strengthening ties between Irish and US businesses and academic institutions is a key driver in bringing American Football back to Ireland. The five-game series is estimated to bring an economic boost of over €250 million to the Irish economy.


Organisers and Sponsors

The games will be organised by Irish American Events Ltd which is a joint venture between and Anthony Travel who have been involved in College Football games in Ireland previously. Welcoming today’s announcement, Neil Naughton, Chairman of the Game Steering Committee commented:These games will provide a further, very welcome boost for tourism in Ireland and showcase top-level college football to a wider fan base. Tourism Ireland in the US is working closely with Anthony Travel, the official travel company for both colleges, and other travel partners and we will be using these great sporting events to showcase the fantastic Aviva Stadium, Dublin and the world-class attractions that the island of Ireland offers as a destination.”


The Lord Mayor of Dublin, Nial Ring said: “I welcome the announcement that College Football is returning to the Aviva Stadium in Dublin in 2020 for a five-game programme. Sporting events like the American College Football Series strengthen our ties with other great sporting nations and they showcase Dublin as a destination for hosting major international sporting events.”


Commenting on the sponsorship, Aer Lingus Chief Executive Stephen Kavanagh said, “Aer Lingus is delighted to once again support College Football coming to Ireland, this time as title sponsor of the series. We have no doubt that this exciting event will strengthen the important ties, both in sports and in tourism, between Ireland and the US.  The US is a key market for the airline and one which we know very well.  As a result, we know how important College Football is in American life.  As we continue to realise our ambition to be the leading value carrier on the North Atlantic – we currently have direct flights to Ireland from 15 North American destinations and this is set to increase in the coming years – a high-profile partnership with College Football provides Aer Lingus with a unique opportunity to promote ourselves to this key strategic US audience. We very much look forward to welcoming the fans from Notre Dame and Navy onboard in 2020.”


The other key stakeholders driving the games in both Ireland and America include Fáilte Ireland, Tourism Ireland and Dublin City Council.


Paul Keeley, Director of Commercial Development at Fáilte Ireland in welcoming fans of both College Teams said: “We are delighted to welcome both teams and their supporters to our capital city when they visit in 2020. From past experience of hosting the American Football Classic, it is worth an estimated €23 million to the local economy bringing a welcome boost to our tourism industry locally and nationally as many of the expected 30,000 US supporters and visitors stay and visit other parts of the country while here. In addition, it is expected that via ESPN in the U.S. an estimated 6 million viewers will watch the game providing Ireland with a fantastic opportunity to showcase our ability to host large-scale international sporting tournaments while also reaching out to viewers – and potential visitors – in one of our key markets.”


Navy vs Notre Dame

Navy is a team made up of players enrolled in the US Naval Academy and with one of the nation’s oldest College Football programmes. The US Naval Academy and the University of Notre Dame institutions have a long history of solidarity and support. The fixture was first played in 1927 and both teams are committed to renewing the college football fixture every year.


Notre Dame Football Team and the University of Notre Dame have strong historical links to Ireland and have established one of the largest and most widespread fan bases in college football. Currently coached by Brian Kelly, Notre Dame has had the vast majority of wins in this fixture including the two occasions it was played in Dublin – Croke Park in 1996 and Aviva Stadium in 2012.


The Aer Lingus College Football Series will have a very strong Irish-American influence. Not only will there be the usual college football fanfare with lots of fun events celebrating the red, white and blue including marching bands, cheerleaders and tailgating parties, but there will also be a great celebration of the close Irish-American links that are so highly valued. The teams will compete each year for the Keough-Naughton College Football perpetual Trophy, acknowledging the contribution to Irish-American society of Don Keough and Martin Naughton.

Naval Academy Director of Athletics Chet Gladchuk commented: “We are thrilled and excited to return to Aviva Stadium in Dublin for the 94th playing of the Navy-Notre Dame game,” said Gladchuk.  “In 2012, it was one of the greatest airlifts in all of sports with more than 35,000 people coming from the United States to witness the beauty of Ireland and the extravaganza that is Navy-Notre Dame and we expect just as many people to return in 2020.  The support and enthusiasm for the game in Ireland is magnificent with the complete support from the Prime Minister and the Irish government agencies. We are looking forward to a great matchup in a country that knows no bounds for hospitality.”

Notre Dame Director of Athletics Jack Swarbrick commented: “The University of Notre Dame, our football program, our alumni and fans had such a wonderful experience in 2012,” said Swarbrick. “The people of Ireland were incredibly welcoming and made our time on the Emerald Isle unforgettable. It wasn’t long after our return from that trip that Navy initiated conversations with the hopes of bringing this matchup back to Dublin. Chet and his staff at Navy deserve a ton of credit for making this a reality. “I’m so excited, not only for our student-athletes and those that will travel from the states but for the people of Ireland and all of those that will make this another experience to cherish.”


U.S. high schools will also have the opportunity to travel and play in Ireland as part of the “Dublin Friday Night Lights” programme.


Ticketing / Hospitality & Travel Packages

Packages for the game will go on sale from the 25th of October 2018 through the official corporate hospitality game partner Travel packages will also go on sale from the 25th of October 2018 through Notre Dame’s official travel partner Anthony Travel in partnership with Abbey Group Ireland. General ticketing information to be released in due course.


For exclusive information see and follow College Football Ireland on Twitter @CFBIreland, Facebook @CollegeFootballIreland and Instagram @CFBIreland #MuchMoreThanAGame.