Sunday 23 July 2017

FAI will 'make it up to fans' over Aviva chaos

Ciaran Byrne

UNDER-fire FAI chief executive John Delaney promised yesterday to "make it up" to soccer fans who endured ticket chaos at Ireland's first game in its new home.

Hundreds of fans were told their tickets for the Aviva Stadium had been posted only to be told hours before the game against Argentina that they would have to collect them in person.

Some fans said yesterday they were sent to two different hotels near Lansdowne Road while others gave up queuing and bought more tickets instead from official ticket vans.

The ticket fiasco meant the game was delayed by almost 15 minutes with thousands of empty seats visible by the scheduled 7.45pm kick-off. The game began just before 8pm.

However, more worrying for the FAI is the fact that a large number of the empty seats at the ground were in premium sections, areas which Mr Delaney and his officials have been heavily promoting recently.

Embarrassment

Despite the embarrassment of not filling the ground, Mr Delaney, who earns €430,000 a year, insisted the crowd of less than 46,000 was "a great turnout" and he blamed the empty seats on the recession.

In addition, some fans who visited the stadium expressed anger yesterday over what they said were "rip-off" prices for food and drink inside the new stadium.

Some visitors said the price of burgers in the Aviva Stadium, at between €6.50 and €7.50 each, compared badly to the average €3 cost in a typical McDonald's restaurant.

A small portion of chips cost €4, almost double what a customer would expect to pay in a chipper anywhere in Ireland.

Other prices included €2.50 for soft drinks and €3 for a bag of sweets. Some fans at the game said food and drink cost less at Croke Park.

A pint of lager at the Aviva is priced at €5.40, 40c more than the cost of a pint at Croke Park, which played host of soccer and rugby internationals while the Aviva was being built.

A spokesman for the Aviva Stadium said: "The burgers, which are gourmet burgers, are 100pc made from Irish beef sourced locally as indeed are the other ingredients of cheese, bacon and relish.

Competitive

"The prices in the stadium are benchmarked against all of the other major event venues in Dublin and are in the main competitive."

One parent, who travelled from Sligo for the match, told how he paid more than €160 to bring his children.

"I left work early and rushed to Dublin from Sligo therefore leaving no time to stop for grub," he told the Irish Independent.

"Having already spent €120 to bring myself and the two children to the game I was sickened to have to pay €45 for a burger, chips, sweets and drink for the three of us."

Another supporter who contacted the Irish Independent said he had paid €10 for four soft drinks for his children. "It's too much," he said.

Yesterday, Mr Delaney defended the ticketing procedures. He said last week's Manchester United game against an Airtricity League side and Wednesday's fixture provided a good return.

"It's a difficult time in terms of the economy, it's also August when people are on holidays. I think 95,000 people in seven days is a good achievement."

He was speaking at a press conference to announce details of Carling's sponsorship of the new Four Nations competition, due to kick off next year.

The Republic, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland will compete in round-robin matches at the Aviva Stadium, with the first two games taking place on February 8 and 9, and the remaining games during May.

Irish Independent

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