The first major milestone en route to the 2011 UEFA Europa League final has been reached with the unveiling of the visual identity for the showpiece match at the Dublin Arena.
There will be a Celtic backdrop to the 2011 UEFA Europa League final after the event design and final branding for next year's showpiece match at the Dublin Arena were revealed in the host city.
Representatives of UEFA, the Dublin civic authorities, the Irish government and the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) were in attendance as the visual identity for the UEFA Europa League final was presented in the Liffey Suite of the Convention Centre. The game on 18 May 2011 will be the biggest club football match ever staged in the Irish capital.
"Hosting the final of the UEFA Europa League is a major challenge and, when completed, a major achievement. Dublin should be proud that in these difficult economic times it is hosting such a major sporting event. It will bring in visiting fans, money for the economy, and positive global exposure for the city," said Michael Heselschwerdt, UEFA's head of club competitions, at the event design launch.
The ceremonial unveiling took place within sight of the 50,000 Dublin Arena, the stadium that was formerly Lansdowne Road before a major makeover completed earlier this year. The venue features on the visual identity which, Heselschwerdt said, "has very clear and specific mentions and visual references to Dublin, to the Celtic setting and history, and to the local visual iconography". It also depicts, he added, "the stadium as the ultimate destination for the fans on their journey."
The design and logo will give the final a unique identity to be applied across a wide range of promotional applications, with the goal of helping promote the match and enhancing the prestige of one of the world's biggest sporting occasions. "Having seen the character of the Irish people, and the environment in which you work, I am more convinced than ever that [the game] will be a huge success," Heselschwerdt continued.
Alongside the expectation that Dublin will be a fitting stage, resides the hope that the UEFA Europa League final can bring something to the city. The FAI president Paddy McCaul said: "In the midst of challenging times for our country, we are here to help UEFA launch an event which will provide real stimulus to the people of Ireland and the city of Dublin. From a football perspective, for Ireland to host the final of a flagship UEFA club tournament is a big honour for every one of the 450,000 active participants the FAI represents. We thank UEFA for choosing Dublin as the best location from its 53 member associations to host this prestigious event.
"This UEFA Europa League final will be seen by worldwide television audiences of 40 million people and will provide strong benefits for our sport nationally," McCaul went on. "It is something for us all to look forward to and is already generating a lot of genuine excitement from within the game."
The Lansdowne Road site has been used for international sporting events since 1878. According to UEFA Europa League final ambassador Ronnie Whelan, holding such a spectacle at the new-look ground will complete its renaissance as an elite stadium. "It will mean so much to Dublin to host such a big game in the new stadium. The transformation from the old Lansdowne Road to the new Dublin Arena is amazing, the playing surface is magnificent and it would be a pleasure to play on that pitch," said the former Liverpool FC and Republic of Ireland captain. "It was also a huge honour for me, as a Dubliner, to be asked to be ambassador for a final in my home city," added Whelan.
Final ticket sales to football fans living in the Republic of Ireland will begin, as the first step in the sales process, at 12.00CET on Thursday 16 December. These domestic ticket sales are the responsibility of the FAI and will be conducted exclusively through both its website, fai.ie, and UEFA.com. Ticket prices range from €50 to €135, with fans being able to apply for a maximum of two tickets per person. Additional information regarding domestic ticket sales will be available on UEFA.com from 16 December.