Big Plans | 

Government open to funding Katie Taylor v Amanda Serrano show in Croke Park in autumn

Katie Taylor, left, and Amanda Serrano during their undisputed world lightweight championship fight at Madison Square Garden© SPORTSFILE


THE government remains open to providing funds to enable world boxing champion Katie Taylor fight in Croke Park later this year, according to Sports Minister Thomas Byrne.

Matchroom Chairman Eddie Hearn all but confirmed last night that the May 20 world title fight between Taylor and Amanda Serrano will go ahead in the 3Arena but hinted there could be a stadium fight in Dublin for the unbeaten world champion at a future date.

Speaking at a Sports Ireland press conference today the Minister confirmed financial support had been sought for the May 20 fight.

“I met Brian Peters and his colleagues in my first meeting after Christmas and they did put in proposals. But it’s not happening now so it’s not an issue at the moment.

“If they came to us with another proposal, of course we would look at it out of respect to Katie Taylor. We would love Katie Taylor to be fighting in Croke Park. But, again, with all these proposals, there is a high threshold to cross,” said Minister Byrne.

“Any funding we give to major events - and we do give funding to major events – there is a cost-benefit analysis to be done in terms of possible benefits to the tourism economy and wider participation, to the community.

“We have obviously approved some in recent years and you will know as well that the government has decided not to approve other ones where that cost-benefit doesn’t stack up.”

Asked whether the Department would be more receptive to providing funding for a fight in September as opposed to May 20 when the European Cup final in rugby is taking place in the Aviva, the Minister was non-committal.

“I could never pre-judge what the officials in the Department do independently. So the officials look at any proposal coming in when it comes to major events and they then make a recommendation which government can either accept or reject. They do that independently, so I don’t give any commitments.

“What we have said in public is what we said to Katie’s manager – and I never met Eddie Hearn – is that May 20, because the rugby Heineken Cup was on in Dublin, it seemed to us straight off that that would be hard to justify from a tourism point of view and that if you said November – and I’m not saying November – it is obviously easier to make in terms of a tourism case. Now that doesn’t commit us to a certain date but just to illustrate.”

The Minister insisted there was no issue with the fact that ultimately a private company headed by the Hearn family would be the net beneficiaries of any profit made on a Croke Park show headlined by Katie Taylor.

“Look, it doesn’t even arise now because it’s not even on the agenda but what I would say is that some of the events in sport are obviously profit-making, but the calculations made by officials is whether there is a huge benefit coming into the country from tourism, like the American College Classic and Ryder Cup, we had the Solheim Cup before.

“There is funding given to that even if someone is making a profit in that there is a much bigger profit to the Irish State, to participation and to society. That’s what we want,” said Minister Byrne.

There is a yawning €750k gap between what Croke Park want to stage the event there and what Matchroom are willing to pay.

All sides will probably now wait and see the public reaction as well as the demand for tickets for the May 20 indoor show before making any commitments to stage a much more lavish and expensive show in Croke Park in September.

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