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Ticket farce kick in teeth for fans

Editor's Viewpoint

Published 10/02/2016

The die-hard Northern Ireland football fans are among the most loyal in the sport
The die-hard Northern Ireland football fans are among the most loyal in the sport

The die-hard Northern Ireland football fans are among the most loyal in the sport. They travel the world, most often in hope rather than expectation, to support the team. The squad's qualification for the finals of the European Championships for the first time was a bonus that the Green and White Army never dared to dream of.

But the euphoria of that success has been dampened by a ticketing shambles that has seen many of truest supporters - those who attended matches home and away - fail to get precious match tickets for the team's opening three games in France.

For once it was a case of expectations being dashed. They had taken part in a loyalty programme, gaining points for every qualifying game attended, which was supposed to give them priority when the tickets were being allocated.

However, the complexity of the system of applying for tickets seems to have added a layer of confusion to the issue. Fans who thought they had little chance of obtaining a ticket received them through the pure chance of a lottery, while the fans who had built up loyalty points - and who applied at a different time - were among the thousands who were disappointed. Ironically, under Uefa's non-priority lottery system, there may well be fans from other countries who have ended up with tickets to Northern Ireland games.

It was inevitable that many fans would fail to get tickets given that 50,000 applied for around 29,000 of the precious pieces of paper.

Yet this mathematical certainty will not ease the feeling of the loyal fans who feel they have been cheated out of something they deserved and which it was implied they would obtain.

In cases like this there is always the desire to find out who is to blame. The IFA legitimately argues that ticket allocation was the duty of Uefa, the sport's governing body in Europe, and that Uefa either didn't apply the priority booking system properly, or else the system did not work as intended.

That is scant consolation to fans who have already spent considerable money on travel arrangements and accommodation during the championships. They are out of pocket but have no tickets for entry to the games they so want to see. An additional 1,000 tickets for Northern Ireland's first match against Poland are to be made available to fans who have built up loyalty points, but for many that is too little, too late.

Belfast Telegraph

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