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Declan Bogue: Why raising prices at GAA's league games is simply unfair

Price surge: Fans will be paying more for some league games after an increase in ticket prices
Price surge: Fans will be paying more for some league games after an increase in ticket prices
Declan Bogue

By Declan Bogue

Hey! How do you like your job? Do you hate it?

Are you a traffic warden? Embalmer? An animal food taster? Portaloo cleaner? A Mumbai sewer cleaner? Well, this Sunday in Clones and Enniskillen you'll get the chance to take pity on another person doing their job.

At Clones for the Monaghan v Dublin Division One game, supporters who did not pre-purchase their ticket online will be charged €20. That's up from €15 this time last year.

In Enniskillen, where once you could watch Fermanagh for £15 by paying in at the gate, it will be £19 to do so on Sunday against Cork.

And as bad as the rage from a Fermanagh or Monaghan man who just tootle along to home games could be, standby for volcanic scenes as the rather more, well, I'm going to say 'earthy' menfolk of Tyrone and Armagh play their first league games at home the weekend after.

Nothing - absolutely, totally, undeniably, completely nothing - gets up the nose of the plain GAA person like the feeling that they are being hung upside down and having their trousers shook out for loose change.

The only blessing is that Divisions Three and Four are unaffected. When Derry and Antrim meet in Corrigan Park this Sunday, you can get in for as little as £9 by pre-booking.

The price increase has not been popular so far. The old accusations of 'Grab All Association' have had new life breathed into them and if you can bear to look at social media you can get all the bile you ever hoped for.

The reason, as advanced by GAA President John Horan, goes as follows: "The decision to raise the ticket prices came about because we made a commitment to increase the revenue to club development grants from €2m to €4m over a four-year period."

Typically, the PR wing of the GAA struggled to get ahead of the story. Instead, it was filtered out and received a predictable response.

It's become fashionable to think that the GAA is some socialist utopia whereby it shouldn't see itself as an organisation with a multi-million pound turnover.

Price hikes bring out the extremists. The GAA publish their accounts annually and are audited independently by PriceWaterhouseCooper. The accounts are widely available online. Accusations of a fat-cat culture simply don't stack up.

During his playing days, former Monaghan captain Dick Clerkin was always an abrasive type - and in the world of punditry, he hasn't changed tack. He took the hugely non-populist approach of saying that he was entirely fine with the price increase and drew comparisons with other sports.

Unfortunately, Dick kicked off the debate on Twitter, which has become a place where rationality and debate go to die. Sure, it's only a matter of time before one person accuses the other of being a Nazi anyway.

Why actually pick a man up on his views and mount a counter-argument when you can simply post up a meme of a facepalm, or of a character in an American sitcom giving a puzzled expression?

Pre-Internet times, the great debating halls of society were in pubs and cafes, canteens and around the kettle on a building site.

In that environment, people used to hear each other out. Now, phone zombies use their access to high-profile figures to swear at them and tell them they are bought off by the side they favour. Stuff that they wouldn't dream of saying in person.

Clerkin raised the point that if you want to go to other sports, it costs a whole lot more. An American Football game I myself attended prior to Christmas set me back $110.

Liverpool offer the cheapest soccer prices going and a few select tickets for some games are as low as £9. The next price bracket after that, however, is £37. For cheapest tickets after that you have Arsenal (£27), Cardiff City (£25), Leicester City (£26), Wolves (£22), West Ham (£25) and Newcastle United (£27) that are within the £20-29 bracket. The rest are in the £30s and above.

Clerkin also appeared as a guest on the Off The Ball webshow, where the two hosts tried to imply that because soccer is a professional sport this is all fine and well. As if people should be entirely fine with funding the helicopter that sits atop of Roman Abramovich's yacht, instead of a delicate financial ecosystem such as the GAA's.

Juveniles under 16 get in free to the upcoming leagues unless it is all-ticket, where a €5 charge applies. Try that one on for size the next time you are sauntering into the Emirates.

The unspoken element to all of this is that the GAA also need a bit more cash to bail out the ridiculous farce of Cork's Pairc Ui Chaoimh rebuild, and county boards who are buckling under financial strain such as Galway.

A €25m overspend on Pairc Ui Chaoimh, a stadium that will only be filled at best twice a year, is typical of Irish capital projects. Everything runs over time and spectacularly over budget.

Croke Park have had to take over the running of the stadium, and the first thing that happens is an increase in ticket prices. We all have to share the pain, but it's only Cork who can be said to have had a brief party, with a mega hangover.

And everybody else this weekend has to take part in the whip-round to clean the place up and shampoo the carpets.

Not fair.

Belfast Telegraph


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