Dundalk chief executive defends €30 stand ticket price for Euro clash with Riga
Dundalk have defended the decision to charge €30 for stand tickets for their Champions League clash with Latvian side Riga.
Their new chief executive Mark Devlin says the club need to generate more revenue from showpiece fixtures to help cover the investment from the club's American owners into the playing squad and behind-the-scenes facilities.
The decision to charge €30 for stand tickets for the July 10 visit of Riga has caused some disquiet amongst the club's fanbase - especially as Dundalk's Oriel Park home is dated in comparison to other venues around the country.
Devlin has acknowledged that frustration with the ground is valid, and the former Brentford CEO admits the club will be open to criticism if they don't make progress on that front inside the next year.
But he feels the rise in price for the Riga fixture is justified. UEFA rules will restrict the capacity to around 3,500.
Dundalk have previously charged €25 for stand tickets Champions League qualifiers at the ground - but Riga would be lower-profile opposition than BATE Borisov or Rosenborg.
"They are our showpiece games of the season," said Devlin, who was appointed in March.
"Being totally honest, we do need to use the opportunity to raise more revenue
"The demand is huge and, in this instance, we didn't think it was unfair to put up a modest increase in prizes.
"I appreciate some people may view it negatively but running a football club is difficult if you are trying to invest in players and keep things ticking over," added Devlin.
Dundalk have strengthened their squad ahead of their European mission by bringing Andy Boyle back to the club after his release from Preston.
Boyle earned a move to the Championship side off the back of Dundalk's extraordinary European run in 2016 that earned the club €7m and ultimately led to the takeover by Peak6.
But Devlin admits that poor facilities will hold the club back from making further progress unless they take action.
"That is probably my priority, to make the environment at Oriel much more welcoming," said Devlin. "The facilities are very challenging for female fans and for young families. Slowly but surely we are trying to make improvements.
"We know that our loyal fanbase will continue to come as long as we keep playing entertaining football.
"But we've got to look at ways to modernise the ground. It will be difficult for us to substantially build our fanbase if we do nothing at all with Oriel. There's a glass ceiling there unless we do that."
Dundalk have spent €500,000 on their training centre in a bid to make the day-to-day environment better for players. That improvement was cited by Boyle as he explained his decision to turn down other offers and come home.
But supporters want to see radical improvements to the stadium to reflect a period of success. The hierarchy have cited complications with the current design of Oriel Park and the ownership of the surrounding area as an obstacle.
Club officials and head coach Vinny Perth have also called for local authority support to fund longer-term plans.
"It's not going to be easy or inexpensive," said Devlin, who said shorter-term improvements will focus on finding ways to cover all open seated areas.