UEFA gives Northern Ireland fans extra tickets after Euro 2016 allocation furore
UEFA has released extra Euro 2016 tickets to Northern Ireland fans after a furore over the original allocation process.
Some fans were left fuming on Tuesday morning after a loyalty scheme apparently failed to prioritise those who had attended past games.
The Irish Football Association (IFA) had devised a points system with the aim of ensuring Northern Ireland fans who had attended the most qualifying and friendly matches got first preference when it came to tickets for this summer's tournament in France.
But fans who had amassed numerous loyalty points were scratching their heads after they missed out on tickets, while others with little or no points secured them.
The problem focused on Northern Ireland's opening game against Poland in Nice on June 12 - the match with the smallest ticket allocation (6,800).
The issue seemed to relate to the price category of tickets fans applied for.
Those with limited or no loyalty points appeared to have been able to secure seats in the more expensive areas of the stadium, while supporters with many loyalty points who applied for tickets in the more in-demand cheaper seat categories missed out.
With 50,000 applications for just under 30,000 total seats for Northern Ireland's three group games, there were always going to be many disappointed fans.
But there was a real sense of injustice among many fans who felt years of loyal support had not been rewarded.
The IFA held emergency talks with UEFA throughout Tuesday and, as a consequence, European football's governing body has now released extra tickets for those top-ranking loyalty scheme members who missed out.
A UEFA spokesman said: "UEFA are now in a position to make available extra tickets to ensure that those Northern Ireland fans at the top of the Irish FA's priority list will be able to attend the match.
"These tickets will be across all categories and those top-ranking fans who had missed out and who qualify for this new allocation will be contacted directly by UEFA towards the end of the month."
UEFA said it had applied the IFA's loyalty criteria but explained that in the specific 55 euro ticket category, demand exceeded supply.
Irish FA chief executive Patrick Nelson welcomed UEFA's response to the controversy.
"Our top priority throughout this entire process has always been to ensure that those fans that attended Northern Ireland games home and away in recent years should be at the front of the queue when it came to buying tickets for UEFA Euro 2016," he said.
"Therefore, I would like to thank UEFA for working with the Irish FA to provide some resolution to this issue.
"I would also like to thank those Northern Ireland fans who have purchased tickets for UEFA Euro 2016, and who are travelling to France, for their support of the team."