Ticket sales for Andy Lee bout were on target, says upset Thomond Park boss
The director of Thomond Park has come out fighting and defended ticket sales for the Andy Lee versus Billy Joe Saunders WBO World title boxing match.
With five weeks to go, around 12,000 tickets - 8,000 in Ireland and 4,000 in the UK - had already been sold.
Yesterday, promoters switched the fight to Manchester after Lee's promoter Frank Warren said Andy Lee had contracted a virus that had affected his preparation for the fight, which was scheduled for September 19 in Limerick.
The fight will now take place on October 10 at the MEN Arena in Manchester, which holds a 21,000 capacity.
However, Thomond Park boss John Cantwell said ticket sales were on track and the "worst case scenario" would have seen 20,000 seats sold.
Limerick is now counting the economic cost of losing its first-ever world title boxing match.
Hotels and bars, in particular, are in line to lose millions.
Despite some concerns that low ticket sales was to blame, Mr Cantwell said: "There was never any concern expressed over ticket sales, or anything like that.
"I would have thought, from my experience, whether it's sport or concerts, that the ticket sales would have delivered what was necessary for the event to be a commercial success," he said.
Mr Cantwell said the promoters would have been advised well before organising the fight about the purchasing behaviour of Irish people with regards to event tickets.
"The nature of ticket sales in this country is that people buy late, especially in the run-up, and that's how we would have predicted it to pan out," he said.
The Thomond Park chief said it was like a "bombshell" when he heard about the cancellation.
"We're not in a position to do anything about it," he added.
Mr Cantwell said the figure of 12,000 tickets - with five weeks to go - was normal for a big event in Limerick, and at a time when most locals are holidaying in the seaside town of Kilkee, Co Clare, known as a "Little Limerick".
"If you look at it in that case, with five weeks to a fight, you're talking minimum worst-case scenario 20,000 plus ticket sales, which is a very good attendance for an event."
He said that "unless it's an Ed Sheeran or a Bruce Springsteen" tickets will sell in the first couple of weeks after the announcement before a lull "and then spike significantly in the run-in".
Mr Cantwell added: "Everything up until yesterday was being planned to that effect."