GAA lifted by crowd figures as qualifiers prove big draw
REDUCE admission prices and they will come -- that's the GAA's experience in this year's championship, where a drop in attendance figures for provincial championships was dramatically turned around in the All-Ireland qualifiers.
By the end of the All-Ireland finals, over 1.3 million people will have attended the championships and while that's down marginally on last year, it still represents a major success story in the middle of the worst recession on record.
It was feared after a 6pc drop in the turnout for the provincial championships that the downward trend would continue.
However, the All-Ireland football qualifiers kick-started the recovery and, by the end of Round 3 in both codes, attendances for the back-door games were up almost 40pc on last year. That left the overall attendances for the year slightly ahead of last year.
The attendances at the All-Ireland hurling quarter-finals were up 20pc on last year, but the turnouts at the semi-finals (Tipperary v Dublin and Kilkenny v Waterford) were down by 17pc.
The Dublin v Donegal football semi-final drew the largest attendance of the year to date, with 81,436 turning out in Croke Park last Sunday -- up 1,200 on Cork v Dublin last year. The Kerry v Mayo semi-final was down over 11,000 on Down v Kildare last year.
Some interesting trends emerge from this year's figures. While the provincial councils offered cut-price deals for clubs, families and various groups, they did not reduce their standard headline price for individual adult tickets, which probably accounted for the attendance drop.
Central Council reduced admission prices for the All-Ireland qualifiers, quarter and semi-finals by €5 per person. It appears to have worked for the qualifiers, although not to the same degree from there on.
That's probably due to the big 'home' turn-outs for qualifier games, whereas trips to Croke Park involve considerable extra costs for supporters in many counties.