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Northern Ireland fans’ revolt rattles Irish FA

Irish FA officials will hold emergency discussions today after fans threatened to boycott the Carling Nations Cup clash between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland in less than a fortnight’s time.

Supporters are up in arms over the arrangements for the game and the Amalgamation of Northern Ireland Supporters Clubs (AONISC) have recommended that their members do not attend the fixture in Dublin’s Aviva Stadium on Tuesday May 24, as well as the meeting with Wales three days later at the same venue.

The AONISC, who made their unanimous and unprecedented decision at a meeting on Monday night, are unhappy that fans have been told that to get a ticket for the Republic and Wales games they have to travel to and from Dublin on coaches run by an approved IFA tour operator, with a police escort, at an enforced cost of £30 — plus £27 for a match ticket.

That angered many fans who had already made their own travel plans, booking hotels in Dublin.

The IFA imposed the sanctions for fear of trouble, following incidents at the Scotland game in the Carling Nations Cup in Dublin in February.

In response to the proposed boycott the IFA released a statement last night, revealing that they will take a fresh look at all the arrangements for the two games.

The statement read: “Following today’s announcement by the Amalgamation of Northern Ireland Supporters Clubs not to travel to the Northern Ireland v Republic of Ireland match on 24 May, the Association is disappointed at the decision taken.”

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“The Irish FA would like to reconfirm that the decision to link tickets with organised transport was taken in the interest of safety and security for our fans and in consultation with the PSNI and Garda.

“The transport fee of £30 per person was based on a large requirement of coaches, but now that these are not required, the Association will be meeting tomorrow to review the whole position. Should there be any changes these will be communicated to all block bookers/NI fans members.”

The situation has become an embarrassment for the powers that be, with the likely outcome that Northern Ireland won’t take anything like the support they should have for the two games.

When this tournament was first announced, it was felt that around 7,000 members of the Green and White Army would make the short trip.

Not now, with the AONISC deciding to withdraw their assistance in the stewarding of the buses and with the ‘policing’ of fans, as well as recommending not to attend the double-header.

According to Gary McAllister, spokesman for the Amalgamation, the IFA only have themselves to blame.

“At our meeting on Monday, there was a very strong feeling about how the IFA have handled things and it was unanimously decided to vote against attending the games in Dublin,” said McAllister.

“We have 73 clubs throughout Northern Ireland and will be recommending to them not to travel as we are opposed to the costs that fans are being asked to pay.

“Looking back to the Scotland match, we advised the IFA in December last year that tickets should be sold only to block bookers but we weren’t heeded, and our outstanding reputation was hit by the actions of a minority.

“The IFA have had three months to work on this issue after the Scotland game, but only announced this plan last week. We believe the IFA need to learn lessons from this. They didn’t get it right for the first game in Dublin and they haven’t got it right for the two games later this month.”

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