Notre Dame and Navy are full speed ahead for a 9 a.m. ET kickoff Saturday in Dublin, Ireland, as scheduled for nearly two years. The game is a sellout, with secondhand tickets going for hundreds of dollars online. But the trans-Atlantic tour is not going entirely smoothly, thanks to an Irish organization that's threatening legal actionto recoup more than $90,000 it claims it's owed by the Naval Academy.
As the designated "home" team, Navy assumed responsibility for organizing the event, which is being marketed as the "Emerald Isle Classic." According to the Irish American Football Association, Navy's associate athletic director, Rob Dunn, signed a sanctioning agreement with the IAFA in March 2011 in which the academy reportedly agreed to open an Irish bank account to fund grassroots efforts to promote the sport in Ireland, primarily by supplying money for equipment at Irish universities and a flag football program for 1,500 schoolchildren. (An Irish news website, TheJournal.ie, wrote earlier this month that it had seen a copy of the document.) In a statement to TheJournal.ie, the IAFA asserted its status as the "officially recognised National Governing Body for the sport in Ireland" and claimed that "its authority to sanction all American football activities in Ireland is very clear."
That authority is not so clear, however, to Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk, who described the academy's agreement with the IAFA as "a mix-up," and denied that the organization has any jurisdiction over who can or cannot play American football in the country, much less to demand money for the privilege. After some initial talks in 2010 and 2011, Gladchuk told Navy Times, the academy broke off its relationship with the IAFA when it realized it wasn't necessary to go through the group to secure the game.
Here's both sides, via Navy Times:
In these talks, IAFA officials claim the academy made promises to help with their grass-roots American football efforts, including funding to support a flag football league for youths, as well as a donation for football equipment to Irish universities.
"The whole emphasis of it was to try to create some sort of legacy from the game being there," said IAFA spokesman Terry Lynch. "The main crux of it had to do with the development side of things for universities and flag football at the grass-roots level."
The academy never made any such promises, said Chet Gladchuk, the school's athletic director. The academy did, however, apply for sanctioning with the IAFA in March 2011. This was a mix-up, Gladchuk said; once it became clear the IAFA had no real legal oversight for the game, discussions were dropped.
"Do you think we need their advice?" Gladchuk said… "We do that for a living here. We've been running football for 130 years, as has Notre Dame. We certainly don't need a parochial association in Dublin to give us advice how to conduct a Navy-Notre Dame event."
Navy Times also cites documents provided by the IAFA that show the group was hoping to secure $92,000 for its role – whatever that is – in facilitating the "Classic." But Gladchuk counters that the academy has consulted with lawyers on both sides of the Atlantic and determined that it has no legal obligation to the IAFA; all appropriate permits for the event have been settled with the host site, Aviva Stadium. "We'll do what we can to appease or accommodate [the IAFA] to whatever the degree," Gladchuk said. "But we're not going to allow them to extort unjustified resources."
The Irish American Football Association is sanctioned by the Federation of Irish Sport and the Irish Sports Council, and has expressed concern on its website that if the sanctions negotiated in March 2011 are not enforced, "an undesirable precedent may be set whereby anyone can run a major sporting event in Ireland outside the control of the domestic NGB [National Governing Body]." In the same statement, the IAFA says it is "confident of its legal position" against the academy, and "due to Navy's lack of engagement, the only option open to it is to seek the assistance of the High Court to enforce the sanction contract." I am not qualified to parse the intricacies of the Irish legal system on a college football blog, but if you'd like to, you can read more about the Irish High Court here.