Belfast Telegraph

Euro 2016 tickets 'shambles': Sadly, Irish FA is no stranger to cock-ups like this

By Stuart McKinley

If you've followed Irish League football or the Northern Ireland international team's exploits for long enough you'll know that we've been down this road before - many times.

Over the years there has been saga after controversy followed by crisis in the local game.

When Michael O'Neill led his team to the Euro 2016 finals we always knew that there would be a number of fans left disappointed when it came to gaining the coveted tickets for group games.

The shock came, however, when fans who have been ticket holders at Windsor Park for many years and travelled to away games too lost out to some whose attendance at matches has, at best, been sporadic.

It's always worse when nobody is prepared to admit fault, which is the case this time.

The Irish FA has asked questions of Uefa with doubts over whether they implemented the priority list. After the IFA and fans groups worked on a loyalty scheme for two or three months that, if true, is indefensible. Uefa, however, say the cause of the problem was outside of their control as demand exceeded supply.

Hold on here, none of us are stupid enough to think that this is the first time Uefa have dealt with matches where supply and demand hasn't matched up, but this time they have royally messed up.

There have been plenty of problems down the years that have been within the control of those responsible for running the game here though, which have left the authorities with egg on their face.

It is 10 years now since Brian McLean - remember him? - was robbed of an international career because someone within the IFA didn't know the rules over player switches. The former Scotland under-17 international needed to apply to change his international allegiance before his 21st birthday, but this wasn't done, McLean was left sitting in the stand after travelling for an under-21 international in Liechtenstein and never again pulled on a green shirt.

Glentoran have been involved in a couple of registration wrangles, but none more ridiculous than what became known as 'the Andrew Kilmartin affair.'

At the start of the 2002-03 season the Glens were about to be stripped of all 12 league points for playing Kilmartin because he had been registered as an amateur after previously signing as a professional.

Losing the points would have done serious damage to the Glens' hopes of winning the league and it was only resolved when it was discovered that a Fifa directive implemented in July 2001 allowed players to regain amateur status after a 30-day period of inactivity.

The Glens were involved - albeit indirectly - last season, when the IFA couldn't work out if a red card issued against Gary Hamilton should have triggered a playing suspension or not.

The Glenavon player-manager, who was a named substitute, was sent from the touchline during a game against Linfield and then scored twice in a 4-2 win over Glentoran a week later.

The Glens cried foul and while the IFA Appeals Committee did agree that there was some merit in their claim that Hamilton should have been banned, because Glenavon had been told that he was eligible they claimed that 'natural justice' would not be served by giving Glentoran the points and the result stood.

Belfast Telegraph