DONEGAL County Board are facing a €60,000 bill after being ordered by the GAA's management committee to offer a refund of the controversial €5 levy imposed on tickets for this year's All-Ireland football final.
It's a major embarrassment for Donegal at the end of a historic year and follows an intervention by Croke Park, who told the champions they were out of order to charge the levy. Imposed to boost the squad's training fund, it increased the stand ticket price to €85.
Donegal chairman PJ McGowan and secretary Hugh Martin Ferry were called before a meeting of the management committee, where they were told that adding €5 to the price of an All-Ireland ticket was unacceptable.
Management had earlier sought an explanation of the background to the levy, but were dissatisfied with the written response, leading to the chairman and secretary being summoned to HQ.
According to management committee minutes seen by the Irish Independent, "the officers apologised for the inaccurate letter originally submitted and explained the circumstances surrounding the distribution of All-Ireland tickets."
They acknowledged that the €5 was a levy and gave assurances that there would be no repeat in future.
"Based on that, it was decided not to initiate a formal investigation which may have led to disciplinary action against officers of Coiste Dun Na nGall," note the management minutes.
However, that's conditional on refund instructions being complied with.
Being ordered to offer refunds almost three months after the All-Ireland final is a setback to the county board, who must now contact all the clubs and offer a refund.
The fact that disciplinary action against Donegal officers was mentioned as a possibility by management shows how annoyed Croke Park were over the imposition of the levy.
It sends out a clear signal to counties who reach future All-Ireland finals that a compulsory extra charge will not be accepted.
Mayo were also asked by Croke Park to explain their All-Ireland deal, which offered clubs 20 extra tickets at an additional cost of €1,000.
They successfully argued that this was in addition to clubs' ordinary allocations and that it was not compulsory to avail of the deal. Mayo explained that the extra tickets came from an allocation that had previously gone to corporates, sponsors, county board officers, sub-committees and various other outlets. Croke Park accepted their explanation.
However, Croke Park saw the Donegal scenario in a totally different light where ordinary club allocations were subject to an automatic €5 per ticket levy.
It's expected that strict guidelines will be issued to counties well in advance of next year's All-Ireland finals, detailing the limited circumstances in which ticket prices can be increased.