Belfast Telegraph

Irish FA's priority list is just the ticket for supporters

By Graham Luney

Northern Ireland fans have given a broad welcome to the Irish Football Association’s new ticket allocation plan for Euro 2016 matches.

The supporters will now be allowed to purchase two tickets for the games in France and there will be a priority list rewarding fans who have supported the team during the qualifying campaign.

Priority points will be awarded to block bookers who renewed their tickets following the World Cup 2014 qualifying campaign and for tickets purchased throughout the Euro 2016 qualifying series such as campaign cards, single home and away match tickets and friendlies.

In Thursday’s Belfast Telegraph Northern Ireland legend Gerry Armstrong said he feared a one ticket per person system would have denied many supporters the chance to attend matches and the IFA has admitted that approach would have excluded under-18s due to a legal agreement with Uefa — leaving more than 500 junior campaign card holders out of the process.

The Amalgamation of Official Northern Ireland Supporters’ Clubs (AONISC) spokesman Gary McAllister said: “I’m pleased that the Irish Football Association has amended the system they will use to allocate their ticket allocation for the Euro 2016 games in France next summer.”

McAllister added: “As the officially recognised supporters’ organisation, we felt that it was important to argue for a fair outcome for all match-going supporters.”

Fans who apply for one ticket will have a level of priority based on their own purchases, while supporters who apply for two tickets will have a shared priority allocation.

The Irish FA statement adds: “If a block booker applies with another block booker then both remain at the level of priority that they would have had if they had been applying as individuals.

“However, if a block booker applies with a supporter who hasn’t attended any Northern Ireland games in recent years, then the priority points will be divided between both.

“This way forward means that supporters can choose to apply for more than one ticket, it means that block bookers under 18 are not penalised, but also significantly it means that those who have supported Northern Ireland throughout the qualifying campaign are given priority to apply.”

The Irish FA has also employed two extra staff to process ticket information.

Thursday’s Belfast Telegraph revealed the results of an Irish FA survey, disclosing that from 2,175 responses to a question posed to 8,600 block bookers, 50% voted for the one ticket option, 30% requested two tickets and 20% favoured four tickets.

Belgium are the only one of the 23 countries who have qualified for the finals adopting the one ticket each per game approach.

The English FA and FAI are going for four with Wales adopting a two ticket system.

Irish FA chief executive Patrick Nelson, who was made very aware of fans’ concerns, said: “We have set out to reach a fair and equitable outcome whereby our loyal fans who have backed us home and away, through thick and thin are rewarded.

“Obviously we just wanted to be fair to everybody. That was always our view and intention.”

AONISC spokesman Gary McAllister said: “As long-standing fans, we felt it was vital to prioritise the loyalty of thousands of supporters who have stayed with our team regardless of results.

“This was not about the creation of a ‘hierarchy’ within the Northern Ireland support, but simply to ensure that those supporters who have been to support the team would not miss out at the expense of ‘casual’ fans in the event of a shortfall of tickets.

“The core issue for us was not the number of tickets that each Campaign Card holder could apply for.

“We wanted to ensure that, in the event of Northern Ireland being drawn to play in one of the smaller stadia, regular attenders at Northern Ireland games would be given the maximum opportunity to receive a ticket.

“The initial proposal would have meant that the second person on an application for tickets would not have needed to have any ‘loyalty points’ and effectively meant the creation of an ‘open season’ which would have allowed anyone to apply alongside a Campaign Card holder.

“The additional checks which will now be applied to applications will ensure that Campaign Card holders and those who have attended the away games will stand a better chance of receiving a ticket for even the smallest stadium.”

Northern Ireland fans are entitled to tickets covering 20% of the stadiums, with the smallest venue being the 33,000 capacity Stadium de Toulouse.

Tickets for the Euro 2016 finals will be available to buy on December 14, two days after the draw for the group stages.

Belfast Telegraph Digital