Wednesday 18 October 2017

Dubs fight for 'Spring Series' to remain in Croke Park

The 'Spring Series' attracted large crowds to Croke Park during the National League, but has been blamed for lower attendances during the Championship
The 'Spring Series' attracted large crowds to Croke Park during the National League, but has been blamed for lower attendances during the Championship

Dublin have defended the concept of the 'Spring Series' and have dismissed a suggestion that it has taken away some of the uniqueness of attending games in Croke Park.

County Board chairman Andy Kettle has admitted he was surprised by the view put forward by Leinster Council chairman Martin Skelly last week that the series may be diluting the Croke Park experience for some supporters and that the whole concept needed to be reviewed.

Skelly was speaking in the context of the effect he felt the series in spring, which sees Dublin playing all their home football league matches in Croke Park, was having on Leinster gates later in the summer when Dublin were playing, particularly in the earlier rounds.

impact

The Leinster chairman was expressing the view, in a personal capacity, that the Spring Series was having some impact on attendances because of the ease of access to big games it has provided Dublin supporters.

He did qualify that he thought it was a fine initiative, but wondered if the knock-on effect it was having on provincial games should be reviewed.

Dublin are intent on running a Spring Series initiative for a third successive year, but the absence of the hurlers from Division 1A of the league has cast doubt over its sustainability.

The matches in Croke Park have been very keenly priced since the initiative began in 2011 with every attendance getting over the 20,000 mark, even on Sunday afternoons.

For the opening night last year Dublin played Kerry in a repeat of the All-Ireland final four and a half months earlier and had Kildare and Tyrone as a curtain-raiser. It attracted a crowd of 45,838.

However, it's understood that Kildare have made it very clear to GAA officials that they are determined to stay in St Conleth's Park for all four of their home Allianz football league fixtures next spring.

Crowds of 24,886 for the Sunday afternoon double-header involving Dublin/Cork (hurling) and Dublin/Armagh (football) and then 23,885 for the Saturday night clashes of Dublin/Tipperary (hurling) and Dublin/Donegal (football) made the 2012 series a sustainable venture once again. Kettle said he could see no link between crowds at league games in Croke Park in spring and a fall away in attendances in the summer for Dublin championship games as alluded to by Skelly.

"I don't see it having an impact. I've never heard that view put forward before," said Kettle.

"We would hold the view that championship attendances are dictated by fixtures. If it's Dublin and Kildare or Dublin and Meath, then it will automatically sell.

"Dublin is Leinster's cash cow, there is no doubt about that and if supporters feel they are involved in attractive games then they'll come."

Kettle said the capacity of Parnell Park is down to 9,000 from 10,000 to meet the terms of the Slattery Report and that would not be sufficient to house the crowds that would want to attend some of their games.

He believes the reasons for retaining the Spring Series are numerous.

"For a start it means increased revenue for the pool, which is then distributed to every county. If the gates are greater then it benefits everybody, not just Dublin," he said.

"It also helps with the sale of Premium tickets in Croke Park too, which is important.

"If there are more games on then it makes a premium ticket or a box a more attractive proposition.

"Other teams in our division get the opportunity to play in Croke Park, which is important for them too. Croke Park is for everyone, not just Dublin, and I don't think we should be making it elitist in any way.

"If we have been getting crowds of between 20,000 and 40,000 for all our football league games over the last two seasons it would be hard to revert to a venue that can only accommodate 9,000," he said.

There have been misgivings expressed in recent months however, most notably by Wexford footballer Aindreas Doyle, about the familiarity with Croke Park that Dublin have been allowed to build up through the vehicle of the series.

Dublin sold ticket packages for €45 (seated) in 2011 covering four double-bills as part of the series and €30 (seated) for three nights in 2012. In 2012, entry to one league double-bill was €13.

The price of admission to the Hogan Stand for the Leinster quarter-finals in early June that involved Wexford against Longford and Dublin versus Louth was €25 without a concession, but other packages were available.

Irish Independent

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