Sports Minister Carál Ní Chuilín has expressed concern and support for local soccer fans experiencing difficulties obtaining tickets for UEFA Euro 2016 matches.
The Northern Ireland soccer team will compete at the tournament this summer. Tens of thousands of fans submitted applications for tickets to the three group games – against Poland in Nice, Ukraine in Lyon and Germany in Paris – but many loyal fans who expected to secure tickets were told that their application was unsuccessful.
The Minister said: “After the team qualified for its first ever European Championship finals, and first major tournament for 30 years, local fans were understandably ecstatic. They were, of course, eager to secure tickets to the three group games in Nice, Lyon and Paris, and submitted ticket applications in their droves over winter.
“There were always going to be more applications than tickets available, and it was vital, therefore, that a system was put in place by the Irish FA and UEFA to ensure the fair distribution of tickets among supporters.
“I know that the local supporters’ umbrella group, the AONISC, worked closely with the Irish FA to develop a points system that would reward loyalty, ensuring those fans who are block bookers and who have attended most matches in the run-up to qualification would have priority. This information was then passed to UEFA, which has ultimate responsibility for allocating tickets to all matches in the tournament.
“Unfortunately it has transpired that, for whatever reason, the ranking points has not worked as envisaged, meaning many of the most loyal supporters, who have attended home and away games for many years, have not been able to secure tickets.
“I know that the IFA has taken swift action to address the issue, and as a result UEFA has made available a further 1,000 or so tickets for the opening game against Poland in Nice. I commend Patrick Nelson and his team for their efforts to that end. However, there remain many other supporters who have not been allocated tickets to the matches in Lyon and Paris, despite having a high loyalty points tally.
“I urge the IFA and UEFA to re-examine the situation to identify any possible additional steps to accommodate local fans and find a resolution that is fair and equitable.”
The Minister added: “Fans of the Republic team are now understandably concerned that their ticket applications, which are also based on a loyalty system, might also not be implemented as hoped.
“It is paramount that the IFA, FAI and UEFA put supporters’ needs at the centre of the ticket allocation process so that the understandable frustrations we have seen in the last couple of days can be avoided in future.”