Everything incoming Irish athletics director Pete Bevacqua said about Chelsea vs. Celtic at Notre Dame Stadium

On3 imageby:Tyler Horka03/18/24

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Former NBC executive and incoming Notre Dame athletics director Pete Bevacqua said during his time on the business side of sports media he came to universally agree with his colleagues that there is one sport that most mirrors college football — European soccer. On July 27, those cultures will come together when Notre Dame Stadium serves as the host venue for a friendly between Chelsea F.C. of the English Premier League and Celtic F.C. of the Scottish Premiership.

Here’s everything Bevacqua said about the marquee matchup in a media scrum following the announcement of the game Monday.

On how Notre Dame Stadium came about as a host site for Chelsea vs. Celtic

“It was in the works for a while, for sure. We have a great international presence. You look back over the course of this last year with the football team going to Dublin, the women’s basketball team going to Paris and I had the great opportunity to accompany the men’s and women’s gold teams at the Old Course in St. Andrews.

“So now to be able to bring such a wonderful international event to campus, to Notre Dame, to South Bend, we think it’s absolutely wonderful. We think the crowds will be here packing the stadium. The excitement for Chelsea and Celtic, I think it’s going to be a wonderful event in the summer for South Bend. We couldn’t be more excited.”

On how many people he expects to attend the game

“We think we’ll get, hopefully, at least 70,000 people. With what the stadium capacity is, hopefully we can do more than 70,000. But we’ll drum up excitement. Hopefully we’ll have a beautiful day in July. I think we’ll pack the stadium. That’s our intent. That’s our hope. And, certainly, our expectation.”

On South Bend being ready for such a big event

“Notre Dame and the surrounding South Bend community is used to hosting big-time sporting events, obviously, with all the sports we have here and the football program. We have such a great relationship with the city and city leaders. I think South Bend will be ready.

“I think it’s happening at a great time of year to have it in the summer, obviously well before football season starts. It’s going to be a great economic boom for the city of South Bend and a great way to further showcase how South Bend can handle big events here on campus.”

On this being the first big thing on campus during his tenure as athletics director

“It’s pretty cool, but we have the Blue-Gold Game coming. So I’ll have that in April. We’ll be plenty prepared.”

On Chelsea and Celtic being a good fit for Notre Dame Stadium

“There’s an expectation. When you talk about Chelsea Football Club and Celtic Football Club, that history of success, that history of championships, nothing less than championships is expected, and that’s what we have here at Notre Dame. We know that so well, for all of our sports. Certainly, every time we go into that stadium and play another school on the football field we want to win. That’s the Notre Dame way. That’s the expectation. That’s what we expect, and I know that’s what these two great football clubs expect as well.

“So I think it’s a great coming together of these mini cultures. And to have a different sport come into Notre Dame Stadium, but again, two football clubs with such great history and such great fan bases — much like us, I mean, you’re talking about Chelsea and Celtic. These are not only their own countries and their own areas and regions, but these are two fan bases that have such international appeal.

“I was talking to Roberto [Di Matteo] and Roy [Aitken] as we were walking around the stadium and they were talking about pockets of fans in New York and Boston and Chicago, Indiana, the West Coast, up in Canada, these are great international brands, much like the Notre Dame brand.”

On why Notre Dame pushed to host this game

“This is what we want to do. So much for us is to bring the presence of our university to these international markets and these international venues. You’ve seen that, and that will continue to be a priority of ours going forward. But then to bring this great international event, these two well-known teams to the South Bend community, I think it’s what we’re meant to do. Hopefully we can do more of this. I think it will be a great success. I think the Notre Dame community, the South Bend community will turn out in force for it. We’re used to hosting big events at Notre Dame. Certainly big events in that stadium. This will be another one in the long history of wonderful events we’ve had here.”

On having Notre Dame Stadium host a soccer event in 2024

“I think we have some of the best operations staffs in sports, certainly in the university environment. I can’t say enough about the great work they do day in, day out. We’ll be ready. But I also think soccer has continued to grow so much here in the U.S.

“I know it from my past experience with NBC with the Premier League. You see the growth of the Premier League here in the United States over the last decade, you see the growth of women’s soccer with what the National Women’s Soccer League is doing right now in the U.S., it’s just exploding. MLS, the growth MLS has had. With the World Cup, the success of the last World Cup and with the World Cup coming to the United States, I think this is a great moment for soccer in this country.

“So I think the timing of this in July of this summer is ideal because I think there is a fever for soccer right now in the United States. We certainly see it here on campus with our men’s team and women’s team. We had such a wonderful men’s season going to the national championship. I just think it’s a great time for soccer, so I couldn’t be more excited about the timing of this match happening here, this international friendly here with these two historic teams, I think it continues this growth and evolution of soccer in this country that I’ve never been more bullish about than I’ve been right now.”

On ticket prices

“If they have been determined, I don’t know them off the top of my head. But I’m sure we’re going to price it in a way that makes it very desirable and attractive for the South Bend community to come out and have some fun.”

On if he’s been to a soccer game like this before

“I’ve taken in some Premier League matches. It’s wonderful. It’s funny; when I was back at NBC, we would say that what resembles college football the most internationally are these great soccer leagues like the Premier League because it’s a sport, it’s a passion, it’s a culture. It’s a fan base that just rallies around its team. So I think it’s a perfect venue to have these two great, historic teams come into one of the greatest venues in all of sports and certainly one of the most historic venues in sports, here at Notre Dame Stadium. I just think it’s a perfect, exciting combination.”

More on why Chelsea and Celtic were chosen

“Two of the great, historic teams. They have those winning formulas. They have a stories history, a storied past. They’re teams that are both competing at the highest level right now. I think they’re teams that have a great U.S. fan base. When you think about Celtic and the heritage there and Chelsea, which is obviously one of the great international teams in soccer, two big brands. To bring those great, historic, blue-chip brands to Notre Dame Stadium, to bring them onto this campus, to bring them into this city, I think it adds to the excitement when you have those types of clubs coming here.”

On if Celtic’s cultural similarities to Notre Dame made it a perfect candidate for the game

“It had to work for them. It had to work for teams that were touring and for their schedules. You probably have the same feeling I do, and I was teasing Roberto, I think Roy will be angling for the home pitch advantage, I’ll call it, as opposed to the home field advantage, but there will be a lot of Celtic fans in that stadium, for sure.”

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