Rovers fans scramble for tickets after dream draw
Match may be moved to Aviva due to demand
TICKETS, tickets, tickets. The draw had only been announced in Monaco but the phones were already "going ballistic" at a small stadium in the west of Dublin.
Harried staff at Shamrock Rovers' headquarters in Tallaght were hit by hundreds of calls yesterday as fans jammed phone lines with inquiries about tickets.
"It's been a crazy day, the phones have been hopping and all they want to know about is tickets for the Spurs game," said one of the staff members.
Already guaranteed a €1m pay day as a result of becoming the first Irish team to qualify for the group stages of the Europa League, it got a whole lot better for Rovers' fans yesterday when the club drew English Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur in the group stages of the competition.
It immediately kicked off a hunt for tickets and prompted a flurry of calls from fans, with most inquiries focused on the Spurs clash.
Club financial director James Nolan said their preference would be to play all their home games in Tallaght but such is the interest -- especially in the Spurs fixture -- that demand for tickets may force the club to move the match to the Aviva Stadium.
"We didn't anticipate getting this far and we haven't done any advance planning," he admitted last night.
Apart from an eagerly anticipated trip to White Hart Lane in London for the away game against Spurs, Rovers' fans will also have to dig deep if they want to follow the team's exploits in Europe.
Credit unions are expected to see some brisk business as supporters seek loans to fund autumn trips to Kazan, a city on the River Volga 600 miles east of Moscow, and Greece for the other away group matches against Rubin Kazan and PAOK Salonika.
"We've waited long enough to have a home of our own and we would prefer to play our home games in Tallaght. But we would need extra seating capacity and would need to talk to South Dublin County Council about that," said Mr Nolan.
Staying and playing at home will also require the club to adhere strictly to UEFA regulations.
"We haven't given much thought yet to the logistics of these forthcoming games," he said. "We will first look after our 2,500 season ticket holders and they will get first preference whenever the tickets are allocated."
Tottenham director of football administration Darren Eales admitted he was delighted when the Irish side's name came out of the hat.
Mr Eales said: "I must admit after we had Rubin Kazan first out of the hat and then PAOK from Greece, it didn't look good, but at least we got Shamrock.
"It's a great fairytale for them, the first Irish club to get into the group stage of a European competition, and it's what European football is all about.
"It should be a great night in Dublin. I know their stadium only holds 6,000 so I think they will need to find somewhere with a few more seats than that and it should be a cracking atmosphere there, and a great little trip for our fans."
Mr Nolan said the €1m pay cheque which the Europa League qualification will bring in will help boost investment in the club that has dragged itself back from financial ruin.
Last year the club had a turnover of around €2.4m but European qualification is expected to push that to between €3.5m and €4m this year.
"It's been quite a turnaround in our fortunes in such a short space of time. The extra funds will allow us to to focus on some other aspects of the club such as investment in underage players."
It will also help boost sales of club jerseys and football kits and give the club the opportunity of getting the Rovers' 'brand' out to the public, Mr Nolan added.
Rovers' chairman Jonathan Roche said the Spurs fixture was a dream come true for the fans. "We would have taken anybody, it's a great draw for our fans. Securing qualification with the win in Belgrade was a historic occasion for us and to top it off like this, it hasn't quite soaked in," he said.
"It's been an unbelievable two days. Six years ago we were relegated, then the fans took over the club.
"We won the league for (the) first time in 16 years last season and hopefully this shows people that we play a good style of football.
"It's not really about the money but it's the whole razzmatazz and the whole profile of the football club. Hopefully we can do ourselves justice.
"It (Tottenham) is the big glamour tie and the one everyone picked out."
Europa league draw and reaction, see sport