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Uefa slammed as system devised to reward loyalty descended into a lottery

By Adrian Rutherford

It's our biggest game for 30 years - Northern Ireland versus Poland in Nice on the beautiful French Riviera on June 12.

But some of the Green and White Army's most loyal followers will not be there to see it.

Just how did the IFA and Uefa get it so wrong?

Let's start with the obvious - demand was always going to exceed supply.

Less than 30,000 tickets had been allocated to Northern Ireland supporters for the three group games against the Poles, Ukraine and Germany.

Yet 50,000-plus applications had been made by fans desperate to be part of our first major tournament since the 1986 World Cup.

Even with an extra 1,000 tickets made available yesterday, simple mathematics dictates that some are going to be disappointed.

However, the allocation of tickets has caused most anger.

Some who have been part of the ride right through the qualifying journey and during previous campaigns appear to have missed out.

Others who attended just a handful of games have struck lucky.

The opening game against Poland at the 35,000-capacity Stade de Nice has been a particular problem, albeit an extra release of tickets yesterday should help.

Exactly what happened is not quite clear, but it appears that previous assurances that fans' loyalty would be rewarded have counted for little.

The Irish FA said the problem lies with Uefa, European football's governing body.

Chief executive Patrick Nelson indicated that a priority system, meant to reward loyal fans, didn't work or wasn't properly applied.

The ticketing process was complex, and comprised several stages.

Around one million tickets were made available last summer. Fans could apply for games not knowing who would be playing.

Stage two, which ran from December 14 to January 18, allowed fans of competing nations to apply for matches involving their team.

A total of 29,058 tickets were available for Northern Ireland's three games in Nice, Lyon and Paris.

Priority was to be given to those who attended games during qualification. But many fans still missed out.

Others were more successful, even though they have been to far fewer games.

Those who have missed out shouldn't give up hope just yet.

Yesterday Uefa bowed to pressure and released almost 1,000 extra tickets for the Poland game.

Those at the top of the IFA's priority list will be first in line.

It still won't meet demand, and there is as yet no increase for the Ukraine or Germany ties.

But all is still not lost.

A resale system operated by Uefa opens next month, allowing fans to securely buy and sell unwanted tickets at face value.

The resale platform will operate during March and April.

Useful information

Irish Football Association

Phone: 028 90 669 458

Email: tickets@irishfa.com

UEFA

Calling from outside France +33 1 82 52 2016

FAQ - http://www.uefa.com/uefaeuro/ticketing/faq/index.html

Belfast Telegraph