The Pittsburgh Steelers made a welcome return to Croke Park today, where they played a pre-season game in 1997, and committed to growing their fanbase and the game of American Football in Ireland.

The Steelers have been granted rights to expand their brand and activities here, as part of the NFL’s ‘Global Markets Program’.

There was no date set, or no detail confirmed but there is now a dream at least of seeing a regular season NFL game staged at Croke Park in the years to come

We are excited to have been granted the rights to engage more deeply with our fans in Ireland,” Steelers President Art Rooney II said. “My family has deep roots throughout Ireland and being able to connect with our fans across the Island is something special to our organization. My father did so much in Ireland during his lifetime, first as one of the founders of the Ireland Funds, then as Ambassador. We look forward to growing our fan base and the love of American football in the years to come.”

Pittsburgh has been awarded the rights to carry out activities such as fan and youth football events. The ‘Global Markets Program’ license also enables the Steelers to partake in corporate sponsorship and merchandise sales, as well as co-marketing relationships throughout the island of Ireland.

“We are thrilled the Pittsburgh Steelers have been awarded the marketing and commercial rights to the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland,” said Brett Gosper, Head of NFL Europe & UK. “With their deep roots and heritage, the Steelers make for a fantastic partner in helping to grow and engage with the passionate NFL fan base across the island of Ireland. Growing the game globally is a major strategic priority for the League and 32 clubs, and the ‘Global Markets Program’ will continue to help accelerate the momentum and interest in our sport around the world.”

Dublin’s Croke Park played host to the Steelers and Chicago Bears preseason game in 1997, still the only NFL game to ever be played in Ireland. The game was made possible in large part to the Steelers late Chairman, Dan Rooney. Rooney’s ties with Ireland were notable, as he served as the United States Ambassador to Ireland from 2009-2012. He also 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.

Larry McCarthy GAA President said: “Today’s announcement offers another opportunity to strengthen the close bonds between Ireland and the United States. I welcome the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Rooney family and the NFL to Croke Park. We have a longstanding relationship with the Steelers, stretching back to 1997, and we are honoured to host this event today. We look forward to working with the Steelers in the coming years.”

This ‘Global Markets Program’ license will enable the Steelers to bring back some of the traditions and initiatives instituted by Dan Rooney, as well as to bring some new ones forward. The team has already launched dedicated Irish social media accounts and intends to hold its first in-market event this upcoming season by hosting a fan watch party. As part of its long-term planning, the team aspires to return to the island to play an NFL game.

As part of the ‘Global Markets Program’ initiative, NFL clubs have access to international markets for at least a five-year term, during which a club has the rights to pursue activities in that international market that are consistent with what they can do in their home market.

Following the granting of the ‘Global Markets Program’ for Ireland, the Steelers are looking to host a series of events for new and existing fans such as watch parties and flag football events and will work to connect Ireland with Pittsburgh.

We will have a special edition of the Sport for Business podcast this weekend featuring the key players from todays announcement.