I've blogged before about BC Football's potential return to Ireland. While it would make sense for a BC-Notre Dame game to be played on the Emerald Isle, the game has never really gained traction (for a variety of reasons). But reading tweets about Fenway's Open House reminded me that BC partners with an aggressive sports marketing company (Fenway Sports Group) that has no problem re-purposing their stadiums if it means a few extra dollars. Since the Red Sox owners also own Liverpool FC, playing a game on their field starts to make sense.
What's in it for Fenway Sports Group?
Aside from the potential of a onetime pay day, FSG could benefit from a couple of aspects of a game. As a sports marketing company it would help flex their muscle in Europe. It could also be a test run for using Anfield for non-Liverpool FC events. I also think it extends the Liverpool FC brand in the U.S. FSG seemed to get a pink Red Sox hat on millions of women outside of New England. I think they understand the value of reaching non-traditional supporters. The game wouldn't be a merchandise play but it would help the Liverpool paraphernalia sales. Let's assume they got a team with a large U.S. fanbase to play BC (i.e. Alabama, Texas, Ohio State), wouldn't the Red Sox owners be thrilled with 5,000 LFC scarves floating around Austin or Tuscaloosa? The NFL is not coming to Liverpool. Baseball would require putting an infield on Anfield, so that is not an option. The next best thing for FSG would be college football.
What's in it for BC?
In a way, BC has less to gain than the Fenway Sports Group. There would be money, but uprooting the team and the travel costs are one of the reasons the Ireland game has never come together. But I do think the spotlight would be worth it. I don't think you would get a flood of applicants from Liverpool but I do think it would help the school gain some additional recognition in the United Kingdom. And as I mentioned in the Ireland post, it would be a chance for our BC alumni in Europe to have a big event.
Would ESPN do it?
The Red Sox would have to put up most of the money, but ESPN would have to step up too. The travel costs to England would be extreme for both teams. Additional money from ESPN would be needed. But I think they would do it gladly. They know that unique settings and gimmick games can drive ratings. Just look at the North Carolina-Michigan State basketball game from an aircraft carrier. If BC played a solid team early on a Saturday morning, people would watch. In fact I predict a live college football game as a lead in would give College Game Day its best ratings of the year.
If the Anfield game were to happen, it would take years to plan and sell. So BC wouldn't and shouldn't do it to lift the current malaise around the program. But it would be forward looking and aggressive. It would be a strong marketing move from a school that has been extremely conservative. Plus we could recruit off of it. I know both the Red Sox and BC have bigger priorities right now, but this is the type of idea that both need to explore.