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How are Irish League, Ulster Rugby and GAA handling season ticket headache?

 

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Irish League clubs are not expecting fans to seek season ticket refunds.

Irish League clubs are not expecting fans to seek season ticket refunds.

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One family: Tyrone players face supporters

One family: Tyrone players face supporters

A Glentoran fan at The Oval

A Glentoran fan at The Oval

Irish League clubs are not expecting fans to seek season ticket refunds.

While teams across Northern Ireland count the cost of the coronavirus, with players sitting idle and, in some cases, having to take pay cuts, it is not just they who have been impacted.

Sports fans have also been hit by the crisis, with many questioning what the current pause in action means for their season tickets.

As a result, teams have had to scramble to work out how they will either reimburse fans or ensure that the price they have paid for their ticket is fulfilled by fixtures or other events further down the line.

Sporting fans have been understanding of the situation, and that is something which has been evident in how they have supported their teams through this crisis, but the fact does remain that a lot of supporters will find themselves counting the cost of missing out on the end of the season.

Within top-flight Irish League football, which has 12 teams impacted by a loss of game day revenue, there is still an expectation that the league season will be completed whenever it is safe to do so, but that's not a guarantee.

Each team in the Danske Bank Premiership has three or four home games remaining.

There are also promotion and relegation matters to be resolved with Portadown leading the Championship table.

Clubs do not view the season ticket issue as a major headache as they only have a few home games left but they are monitoring developments.

Crusaders chairman Ronnie Millar said: "We've always worked hard on behalf of our season ticket holders by giving good offers and reductions. That will continue as we value their loyalty and support.

"There have been 10% and 20% discounts. It's fantastic for our members. I don't expect fans will come looking for discounts. Times are hard for all clubs and we just don't want to be in a financially vulnerable position."

Rather than contemplating requesting compensation, Crusaders supporters, including the Fans Project and North Belfast Supporters' Club, have made donations to the club.

Ballymena United vice-chairman Don Stirling doesn't believe fans will make an issue of ticket uncertainty at a time when there are greater concerns.

"I would be surprised if fans made an issue of it but to my knowledge it hasn't been discussed at the club," said Stirling.

"There may be an agreement that if the season is scrapped there will be some scheme allowing fans to pay less next season but that's just a theory."

A Glentoran source stated: "Fans accept this is a challenging financial time for all clubs. I know Glentoran received fresh investment but we all still have cash flow issues to deal with.

"Some clubs will be better placed than others financially but they will still have players' wages to pay.

"Most supporters just want us to get back playing so they can cheer us on.

"At the moment our priority is making sure everyone is healthy."

A Linfield source said the club cannot make a decision until they know of any changes.

"What happens if we have to play four monumental games behind closed doors?" the source said. "The games may not be played until September and if next season is affected and possibly reduced, then season ticket prices will be set on that basis. But we need to know when the season starts and how many games there will be."

Meanwhile, GAA fans are still in the dark over ticket sales given the unknown status of this season's Championships and the conclusion of the Allianz League.

The GAA will be having a Special Congress on Friday, and after that and a possible restructuring of the Championships, action will be taken to offer alternative arrangements for ticket holders.

In other sports, decisions made around tickets and refunds is more clear, with both Ulster Rugby and the Belfast Giants releasing statements on their respective situations.

At Kingspan, the hope is that the PRO14 and European seasons will be completed.

For this reason, Ulster's statement indicated all season ticket holders will be contacted in due course once a decision has been made on the remainder of the season, with various "options" if there are games cancelled.

Season ticket sales for 2020-21 have been suspended.

Fans with tickets for individual games have been advised to keep hold of them as, in the event of all games being rescheduled, they may still be valid.

In the Belfast Giants' case, the remainder of their season was cancelled, and while fans with tickets for individual games are eligible for refunds, season ticket holders have been stung.

The team's statement revealed that season tickets will not be refunded as their terms and conditions state season tickets cover "all league and Challenge Cup games played at the SSE Arena during the 2019-20 season".

All season ticket holders have received a £20 credit towards food and drink at the SSE Arena, and are still able to apply for 2020-21 season tickets as normal.

Belfast Telegraph