GAA ticket price cuts spark surge in championship crowds
THE GAA championships are beating the recession, with the crowd surge over the last few weeks leading to an unexpected increase on the overall turnout over last year.
That's quite an achievement after a sluggish start to the provincial campaigns and has left the GAA poised to show an overall increase on the total attendances by the end of the season.
Obviously, that depends on the various pairings from the All-Ireland quarter-final stage onwards, but there's now a distinct possibility that the 2010 total figure of 1.45 million could be beaten.
Connacht football, and Leinster and Munster hurling showed an increase this year, while Munster, Ulster and Leinster football were down, but the big upsurge has been in the All-Ireland qualifiers, up almost 40pc on last year.
The total qualifier attendance so far this year (assuming a crowd of 15,000 at Saturday's Tyrone-Armagh game) will be 203,339, compared with 145,420 at the end of Round 3 last year. Attendances at the provincial championships were down 35,232 on last year.
All the figures are based on a like-for-like basis, which means that last year's provincial replays are not taken into account. Unusually, none of this year's provincial championships provided a replay, compared to five in 2010.
Some very interesting pairings in the All-Ireland qualifiers boosted the crowds, but the real reason for the increase may have been the reduction in admission charges.
The provincial councils kept their ticket prices at last year's figures and while they all offered package deals for families, clubs and various groups, there was no reduction in the headline price for individual purchasers.
Croke Park sent out strong hints that they wanted to see a reduction in all admission charges, but the provinces maintain total control over their own championships, including ticket prices.
Central Council introduced €5 reductions for the qualifiers, All-Ireland quarter and semi-finals, but added €10 for finals. Hopes are now high that the upswing will continue.