GAA supporters tired of shelling out for costly match tickets

By Peter McNamara

GAA folk across the land were not happy last weekend with the prices they had to pay to get into county semi-finals and finals.

The cost involved in taking your seat for the Cork IHC and SHC finals last Sunday, in Páirc Uí Chaoimh, was particularly grating for supporters, neutral or otherwise.

Charging €25 for the matches in question is a little steep. It was a sticking point for many people attending the double-header.

Tracey Kennedy, a brilliant Cork County Board Chairperson, it must be said, explained in a story Denis Hurley wrote, that Croke Park told the county boards €20 is the lowest amount they could charge for club occasions such as last Sunday.

“Croke Park issued a directive that €20 has to be the minimum price anyway,” Kennedy said. “That’s the base starting point for every county and we hadn’t increased our ticket prices in 12 years, which is a pretty long time without an increase. As well, it’s important to point out that tickets were available online for €22 until midnight on Saturday night.

“All of these factors were the things that fed into the decision being taken.

I’m a small bit disappointed that people might think our county finals weren’t worth €25.

“I can understand, when there’s a price increase, people aren’t often happy about it but you’re talking about two very high-quality games and the brilliant facilities we have here.

“All of that has to be taken into account when setting prices.”

Kennedy’s point that you pay for “two very high-quality games and the brilliant facilities we have here” is fair, to a point.

And I say, to a point, because the “two very high-quality games” part of that sentence some people could argue against as everybody views matches in different ways.

However, we appreciate where she is coming from, all the same.

Yet, the quote I take serious issue with is this: “Croke Park issued a directive that €20 has to be the minimum price anyway”.

Due to that being the case, the Cork County Board, and we can only assume other county boards, but not all, based on what Kennedy said, felt the need to charge OAPs and students €20 to enter the ground for the Ballincollig-Blackrock and Imokilly-Midleton double-header.

Ballincollig players celebrate their victory in the Cork IHC final last Sunday. Picture: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Now, here’s the thing, who, in all their wisdom, thought it was acceptable to charge OAPs, in particular, €20? Twenty euro?!

What I would like to know is, how many people, involved in the decision to set that price for OAPs, and students for that matter - but to a lesser extent, students, to be fair - know of OAPs that can spare €20 to watch club-level matches?

Of course, Cork County Board and the GAA are, generally, very fair with prices for OAPs for club games throughout the seasons.

Why the change of tack last Sunday, though? Would €10 for OAPs and students not have been a much fairer price, especially given a high percentage of those people would have also bought the match-day programme as well? Not to mention the other little personal costs that come with a day such as county final-day, like possibly topping up the petrol, having a bite to eat, and whatnot?

In fact, other county boards charged OAPs €10 at the weekend, so why not the Cork County Board?

We are supposed to be encouraging people to go to our games, not deter them by price, which seems to have happened in a lot of cases last Sunday.

Obviously, we cannot be sure that ticket prices put people off attending the double-header, as Kennedy correctly illustrated later in the piece where she explained their reasoning for the prices.

Kennedy added: “There are all kinds of factors (that could impact on the attendance), for example, a divisional team like Imokilly doesn’t have the same kind of support than if there were two club teams.

“There are a huge number of factors that can influence the crowd and I have no evidence at this stage that people have stayed away because of the ticket prices.”

And she is right, we do not know, categorically, that that was the primary factor behind the crowd-size of 10,214.

Yet, it was surely a contributory factor. And, even if it was not a factor, that still does not make the pricing at Páirc Uí Chaoimh last Sunday any more justified.

There is a greater issue at play here, however. The GAA, at local and national standings, do pitch a number of initiatives which alleviate costs for people that wish to attend a massive number of matches in a given season.

However, at inter-county levels, there are more games than ever before being contested, especially in the senior grades.

With that in mind, and the amount of money GAA supporters shelled out in 2018 alone and will do again next year, here’s a suggestion for all the county finals, across the land, in 2019.

As a means of saying thanks for all the support people on the ground give the Association, Croke Park should issue a statement in which it directs every county board to charge €10 for adults and €5 for OAPs and students for their respective club finals at intermediate and senior levels.

And if the GAA market it adequately, it will increase the numbers on the gates everywhere. Where possible, county boards should be encouraged to play their intermediate and senior finals, in each code, as double-headers, thus giving people exceptional value for their hard-earned.

Tomás Condon, son of Imokilly manager Fergal Condon, with the cup following the Cork SHC final at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Picture: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

In Cork’s case, they could charge €10 and €5 for the senior-intermediate double-headers and operate the same system on the day the two premier intermediate finals are contested. Therefore, it will cost €20 or €10 to attend two separate occasions.

Additionally, it would supplement the atmospheres at the finals and would represent a goodwill gesture from the GAA, from the very top, right down to the local county boards.

Alternatively, offer a discounted price for a ticket that will gain people entry to all adult county finals in a given county.

People are frankly sick of being screwed over by the prices of tickets to games. It is extremely unfair.

There is, after all, plenty of money throughout the Association to withstand further deals in which the people are put first, in a direct manner.

It is not unreasonable, whatsoever, to suggest prices as low as €10 and €5, however, given the huge, collective sums people have paid throughout the year supporting their clubs and counties.

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