Sunday 24 July 2016

Revealed: Increased number of Euro 2016 tickets available for Ireland fans

EXCLUSIVE

Published 22/01/2016 | 12:53

More than 50,000 Irish soccer fans are expected to flock to France to cheer on the lads at the Euro 2016 finals. Photo: Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE
More than 50,000 Irish soccer fans are expected to flock to France to cheer on the lads at the Euro 2016 finals. Photo: Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE

Irish football fans hoping to see their team in action at the European Championships this summer have been given a boost in their search for much sought-after tickets.

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The Football Association of Ireland’s official travel partners Abbey Travel, who are normally allocated 15pc of away-match tickets, will not receive any tickets for the tournament in France.

Under a new UEFA rule, tickets cannot be sold as part of any travel or hospitality package which means that fans travelling with Abbey must source their own match ticket.

Independent.ie understands that the 15pc originally set aside for Abbey Travel will now be distributed to fans who travel regularly to see Ireland play and the wider football family.

The FAI have 13,000 tickets for the opening game against Sweden in the Stade de France, 6,000 for the Belgium clash in Bordeaux and 7,000 for the final group game against Italy in Lille. On top of those amounts, the Association will receive a further 2,000 for each game from UEFA which will be held for loyal fans who miss out in the original allocation.

UEFA revealed this week that there has been a staggering 275,000 applications (from Ireland) for Ireland’s games in France, making Martin O’Neill’s men one of the most in-demand nations to see in the competition.

Independent.ie understands that 260,000 of those applications were for the group stages with up to 8,000 applying for the last 16 stage, just under 3,000 for the quarters, 1,500 for the semi final while 1,800 optimistic fans went as far as the final in Paris on July 10. Ireland's opening match against Sweden is the most popular fixture, followed closely by Belgium.

The extra 15pc means there will be 1,950 more tickets to be distributed among fans for the game against Sweden, 900 for the clash with Belgium and 1,050 for the final game against Italy in Lille.

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While this news will be welcomed for Ireland fans, supporters groups have expressed concerns with the amount of tickets allocated to fans with the majority being distributed to the ‘football family’.

Only 30pc of the whole allocation have been set aside for fans who travel away to watch their team on a regular basis with 55pc for the ‘football family’.

The 30pc figure is dramatically lower than other nations such as England, Wales and Northern Ireland, all of whom allocate more than 90pc of their tickets for fans.

The FAI came under fire in November 2014 when it emerged that hundreds of fans who travel away to see their team regularly did not get a ticket for the crucial qualifier against Scotland in Glasgow.

At the time, FAI Chief Executive John Delaney admitted that someone in the FAI had "dropped the ball" when it came to the distribution of the tickets and stated that steps would be taken to ensure the situation is not repeated.

Supporters group YouBoysInGreen, who were very critical of the FAI following the Scotland game, say that there is still uncertainty surrounding the distribution of tickets from the FAI despite what happened in Glasgow.

"The FAI have insisted that priority will be given to fans and the football family and we welcome that. However, we feel the 30pc for fans is very low. The likes of England, Scotland Wales and Northern Ireland reward their loyal fans with over 90pc of match tickets," said a YouBoysInGreen spokesperson.

"For the Scotland game, 55pc - as per an FAI press release - of tickets were allocated to fans. So they have actually lowered the amount of tickets available to regular Ireland fans since then, despite stating they would take measures to ensure a similar situation does not arise again.

"The allocation for the 'football family' has increased at the same time. This means that there are more tickets available to people with no record of supporting the team.

"The FAI say priority will be given to loyal fans but the reality is that many will miss out because the 30pc figure means there are only 1,800 tickets for fans for the game against Belgium and 2,100 for the Italy game. We have 8,500 season ticket holders and vast majority will not get a ticket for the Euros because 70pc will be distributed to the 'football family'."

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