Belfast Telegraph

Euro 2016 Northern Ireland tickets: UEFA to set up portal for fans to buy 1,000 extra Poland tickets

Arlene Foster backs the fans as IFA feels the heat over games in France

By Adrian Rutherford, Allan Preston and Jonny Bell

UEFA is to set up a specific portal for the sale of the 1,000 extra Northern Ireland Euro 2016 finals tickets for those fans who missed out in seeing their team in France.

Many loyal supporters were left devastated after missing out in the scramble for tickets.

Some who have followed the team for almost 20 years were told they would not be getting tickets to matches in France this summer.

But others who had never bought a Northern Ireland ticket said they had been successful.

Furious fans branded the ticketing fiasco "a shambles" and demanded answers from the IFA and Uefa.

In the wake of the outrage, UEFA released 1,000 extra tickets for the Poland game, Northern Ireland's first game in a major finals in 30 years.

The IFA has said a site will be set up for the sale of tickets for the Poland game.

IFA chief executive Patrick Nelson told the BBC: "The 900 or so fans that we're talking about here will have priority access, in fact specific access, to a portal that Uefa are setting up and they should be able to buy tickets.

"We're fairly confident that Uefa will manage this in the right way."

Last night, First Minister Arlene Foster said she supported efforts by the IFA and Uefa "to ensure that the deserving supporters are rewarded with tickets".

"I recognise that many Northern Ireland fans are devastated at their failure to receive tickets for the European Championship," she said.

"It is vital that fans who have faithfully supported 'Our Wee Country' are acknowledged for their dedication and commitment.

"Euro 2016 will be an opportunity for our province to come together and celebrate a remarkable achievement for Northern Irish football. I would also call on Northern Ireland fans not to purchase tickets from any third party source."

Last night, Uefa bowed to mounting anger by allocating almost 1,000 extra tickets for Northern Ireland's opening game against Poland.

But supporters said it did not go far enough, as huge numbers looked set to miss out on our first major tournament in 30 years.

On a day of fast-moving developments:

l Some lifelong fans received emails yesterday morning saying their application for tickets had been unsuccessful;

l It then emerged a number who had attended none or just a handful of the qualifiers had struck lucky;

l The IFA issued a statement laying the blame on Uefa, European football's governing body;

l Stories emerged of fans who had spent thousands on flights and hotels, only to miss out on tickets;

l Uefa bowed to pressure, announcing almost 1,000 extra tickets for the Poland game;

l But it offered no hope for fans who have missed out on the Ukraine and Germany clashes.

Last night, supporters told of their fury as the full extent of the shambles became clear.

Keith Greenlees from Belfast missed out on some of the tickets he wanted, and said he has to choose which of his two children to leave at home.

"Me and my 15-year-old son have tickets to the Germany and Ukraine matches and my 10-year-old doesn't have any," he explained. "I've a terrible choice to make now. It's crazy. It's a joke the way they've done it."

The ticket fiasco threatens to cast a shadow over the growing excitement surrounding Northern Ireland's first finals since the 1986 World Cup.

Michael O'Neill's side will play three group games, starting against Poland at the 35,000-capacity Stade de Nice on June 12.

Then it is on to Lyon for the game against Ukraine at the 59,000 Stade de Lyon on June 16.

They finish against world champions Germany at the Parc des Princes in Paris on June 21.

Tickets were on sale between December 14 and January 18. More than 50,000 applications were made, but less than 30,000 tickets were available.

The Irish FA had said fans' loyalty would be rewarded, with those who regularly attended matches during the qualifying campaign given priority.

But many block-bookers were told they had missed out.

The opening game against the Poles was a particular problem, with many regular fans left empty-handed.

Among those who failed to get tickets for this game was Gary McAllister from the Amalgamation of Official NI Supporters Clubs.

"It's very disappointing, not only for myself having missed out on one of the games, but for many other people I know who have also missed out," he said.

"There just seems to be a lot of inconsistency in how the tickets have been allocated.

"We have been inundated with supporters today who have attended games at Windsor Park and have travelled right through Windsor Park and beyond supporting the Northern Ireland team over a very long period of time who have been unsuccessful."

Yet some fans who did not buy a single ticket during the qualifying campaign were successful.

One fan said they had applied with no hope, having never bought a ticket for a Northern Ireland game, but were stunned to learn they had been successful for every match.

Block-booker Dave Brady applied for all three games with his wife - and did not get a single ticket.

"I have hotels and flights for Nice and Paris booked and arranged for my wife, and I have not received one single ticket," he said.

"I attended four away qualifying games. To say it's disappointing is an understatement."

Irish FA chief executive Patrick Nelson said: "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 comes to buying tickets for Uefa Euro 2016.

"Therefore, I would like to thank Uefa for working with the Irish FA to provide some resolution to this issue."

Uefa 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."


'My son was texting me all day asking if we got any... how do I tell him we won't be going?'

Keith Greenlees - Received an email from UEFA to say his application has been partially successful.

"I've two sons who are both under 18. One's 15 and one's 10. UEFA's policy is that you're only allowed to apply for two tickets per booking. So now me and my 15-year-old son have tickets to the Germany and Ukraine games and my 10-year-old doesn't have tickets for any. For years and years we've all been going to the home games.

"I've a terrible choice to make now. It's crazy, it's a joke the way they've done it. They gathered all this information beforehand and said they would give block-bookers priority. I've built this up to my sons. I've got my camper van ready to go over."

2. Barry McClure - Applied for three games, got one ticket. "I would expect to be in the top 500 NI fans as I travel to away games so much, I didn't expect to miss out on any tickets.

"Out of the six in our group, none of our block-bookers got tickets and the three boys with only a couple of away games each got tickets for all the games. I am livid.

"Through dealings with the IFA in the past I expected them to mess it up. They're pretty much incompetent about doing anything directly."

3. Dave Brady - Applied for all three games, no tickets

"I applied for all three games. Have hotels and flights for Nice and Paris booked and arranged for my wife, and I have not received one single ticket. I attended four away qualifying games. To say it's disappointing is an understatement. I guess we will be cheering from outside the stadiums.

"I've booked for the Germany game to stay in Boulogne, I've booked a hotel in Nice for the first game. Our flights and hotels are paid for, non-refundable. I haven't even phoned my wife to tell her so she'll be absolutely gutted as well."

4. William Humphrey DUP MLA - Applied for Lyon game.

"I have been inundated by constituents today. I've been going to Northern Ireland games since I was a wee boy, I've been a block-booker since it was introduced. I applied for tickets and was turned down. If you're going on loyalty points, in the last two campaigns I've been at every single Northern Ireland game including friendlies at home and got an email this morning telling me I was unsuccessful, as was my nephew.

"We're told that there's a system in place that's going to reward loyalty and clearly that hasn't happened."

5. Gary McAllister - Chairman of Amalgamation of Official NI Supporters Clubs.

"It's very disappointing for many, many people and I think it's only fair that we should be asking a number of questions which should be answered fully. I got tickets for two out of the three games that I applied for but I would emphasise that it's not me as an individual. I'm speaking on behalf of the supporters. We have been inundated with supporters today who have attended games at Windsor Park and have travelled right through Windsor Park and beyond supporting the NI team over a very long period of time who have been unsuccessful. Our phone is absolutely red hot."

6. Simon Bickerstaff - Applied for all three, zero tickets.

"I'm disgusted. I've been going since block-booking began. It used to be six men, we would go out and have a few pints before the game. And then go to the match.

"But a couple of friends who went with us have actually passed away. One has handed his tickets down to his son and I've handed mine down to my son. We've been going probably for the last three campaigns.

"My best friend and our two sons are best friends, so they've been talking about it, we can't wait to go to Paris. We were encouraged by the block bookings that we would get priority.

"My son has been texting me all day, 'Have we got our email yet?' So how do I tell him we're not going?"

7. Jonny Scott

"I'm probably in the same boat as many. I've been a block-booker for 10 years, I haven't missed a home game for this campaign or the last campaign. I think I had about 22 points, I took it from that we would be more or less guaranteed the tickets.

"We didn't get tickets for the Poland game which is the one everybody wants tickets to. That was fine because there's more block-bookers than tickets available. But a lot of people with no points got the tickets, we want to know how that happened.

"It doesn't make sense."

8. Helene McKendry - "Obviously the list wasn't applied for block-bookers. Fuming. How is this fair for people who sat in Windsor Park when there was 3,000 supporters and when we were playing rubbish?"

9. Roy McKay - "I have only missed three matches in over 40 years at Windsor Park. I was at Wembley in 1979 and 1985 and have travelled the length and breadth of Europe to watch the team. My application was unsuccessful - if the priority system was applied properly I would have got my tickets for me and my youngest son. I pay my block-booking every campaign for my two sons and a grandson. Why did IFA leave it to the last minute to forward fans details? Shambolic."

10. Gavin Hughes - "I fear this ship has sailed, but it is blatantly clear the points system has been completely ignored, especially for the Poland game. An absolute shambles. Pounds over loyalty again, modern day football summed up."

11. Alan Robinson - Attended four games during this campaign and even rung the IFA during the application process. "Was told everything would be OK but ended up with no tickets for any game. Standing on the terraces of Windsor for decades long before it was 'cool' to do so makes it all the more sickening."

12. Andy Kirkpatrick - "The Irish Football Association needs to stand up and help those block-bookers who haven't got for the Poland game, it's a disgrace. Help your fans out here and try to get more tickets/seats for this fixture."

13. Matthew Marshall - "I'm lucky in having got tickets for all of the games.

The IFA are a complete disaster, trying to blame UEFA for their mistakes. Completely ridiculous that long-term block-bookers can't get tickets, but people who don't go to games can. Farcical."

14. John Lavery - "A friend of mine who has been to every home match for over 10 years has no tickets, yet there are people on message boards right now who have never been to a match boasting about getting top dollar for selling them. Answers are needed. That statement won't wash with a lot of people."

15. Leigh Moore - "This is a complete embarrassment, so many people on my Facebook who don't even know where Windsor Park is have got tickets for the Poland game, over the last 12 years I've been to every home game and six away games and I didn't get a ticket for it, how is this fair, absolutely disgusted in this."

16. Hugh Smyth - "I have missed two games in 40 years but still bought the tickets. I have two sons who have been travelling from Londonderry with me since they were four, now both grown men. What was the points system all about?

"You have rewarded us for our loyalty with zero tickets for Nice.

Honestly, feel let down by you and will be calling it a day. I hope after a couple of bad results your new fans will be as committed as I was."

Belfast Telegraph