Thursday 25 May 2017

No commitment from bailed-out banks but FAI still claims sales

Shane Phelan and Daniel McDonnell

TWO of Ireland's bailed-out banks have taken up some of the best seats at the Aviva Stadium despite so far failing to buy in to the Football Association of Ireland's disastrous new premium ticket scheme.

Records seen by the Irish Independent reveal that Bank of Ireland and AIB hold at least 80 premium-level seats between them in the €411m stadium.

However, the tickets are part of an agreement that runs out in 2014, under which seats cost up to €750 a year.

Neither bank has committed to renewing the tickets in four years' time, when they would be expected to pay up to €3,200 a year for each seat.

Despite this, the bank seats have been included in FAI sales figures for its struggling 10-year 'Vantage Club' scheme, launched in September 2008.

The sale of the premium tickets is crucial to the FAI's plan to wipe out its stadium-related debts by 2020.

The association had a net bank debt of €38m at the end of 2009, and has paid a further €21.9m towards completing the venue since.

Yet thousands of seats were left empty at the first two soccer internationals at the stadium versus Argentina and Andorra, with complimentary tickets contributing significantly to the attendance at both games.

The FAI last night claimed sales of Vantage Club seats -- of which there are 10,400 -- had surpassed 6,300. It said this included seats allocated as part of sponsorship commitments.

Figures seen by the Irish Independent reveal that International Stadia Group (ISG), an outside company commissioned by the FAI to sell the stadium's premium seats over two years, had allocated just 4,077 seats when their association ended last month.



Struggling

Many of those seats had to be sold at reduced prices following a poor take-up.

The 4,077 figure also includes some 939 seats belonging to existing 10-year ticket holders, such as AIB and Bank of Ireland, although they have not signed up to the new scheme.

The existing ticket holders were sent forms two years ago asking them where they would like to sit in the new stadium.

Unsurprisingly, most opted for the expensive 'Vantage 1' seats, which offer the best views -- in front of the halfway line.

They will not have to decide whether to renew their tickets until 2014 or 2016.

At the FAI's recent AGM in Wexford, John Delaney insisted he was confident the existing 10-year ticket holders would 'probably' renew their tickets.

The records seen by the Irish Independent illustrate the extent to which ISG struggled to sell high-priced 10-year premium tickets after the downturn.

Financial institutions, in particular, were slow to take up the 10-year premium tickets, which were priced between €12,000 and €32,000.

Records show Permanent TSB has taken up just a dozen Vantage tickets valued at €228,000, while Irish Life & Permanent has taken up just six tickets, valued at €114,000.

In contrast to the prices charged by the FAI, the IRFU sold all of its 10-year premium tickets for a flat rate of €15,000 before the 2007 World Cup, while the GAA's 10-year tickets for Croke Park cost €12,000

Irish Independent

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