Wednesday 22 November 2017

FAI to abandon controversial match ticket bundling policy

Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

The FAI have reviewed their unpopular policy of bundling tickets for international games and will sell the four remaining home matches scheduled for this year on a match-by-match basis.

However, the Abbotstown authorities have opted against a further reduction in prices as they bid to improve flagging attendances at the Aviva Stadium.

A crowd of just over 20,000 was given as the attendance for Tuesday's friendly loss to Uruguay and the 33,000 figure offered for Saturday's Euro 2012 win over Macedonia was also below expectations.

Fans complained at having to buy tickets for both encounters rather than being able to pick the game of their choice. That policy has been scrapped, with May's Carling Nations' Cup games with Northern Ireland and Scotland and the autumn Euro 2012 qualifiers with Slovakia and Armenia set to be available as separate events.

However, prices will remain at €30 to €45 for friendly games and €40 to €60 for competitive encounters.

The FAI will next week write to clubs offering discounted tickets for the Northern Ireland and Scotland games, with 50 tickets available for €700, a figure made up of 40 children's tickets at €10 each and 10 adult tickets at €30 a pop.

It remains to be seen if the switch of policy will bring the fans back.

Both players and management have noted the plethora of empty seats, although Giovanni Trapattoni feels that it is in line with general economic problems around Europe.

Falling attendance figures are also a problem in his native country. Certainly, he rejected the suggestion that his team's style of play was turning people away. Given that he was speaking 24 hours after the five-goal thriller against Uruguay, it was a good time to be asked that question.

"I saw that the people were happy afterwards," said Trapattoni. "Obviously, the qualification games are more interesting. People will make an effort to go to the stadium, if it's expensive, for a big qualification game."

A full house for September's visit of Slovakia would be welcome, with a victory in that match likely to be necessary if Ireland are to harbour any hopes of ending their major championship appearance drought.

Before that comes a difficult trip to Macedonia in June, with Trapattoni coy enough on what his approach will be for that game.

Of course, in the context of the injury-blighted run-up to the meeting between the sides in Dublin, he can hardly plan too far ahead.

But he made it clear that his Premier League players will mostly be on the sidelines for the Carling Nations' Cup games against the North and Scotland, with a late finish to this year's top flight meaning a shortage of preparation time.

He indicated that John O'Shea is quite likely to deputise for the suspended Richard Dunne in the heart of the defence, meaning that Kevin Foley has prospects of continuing at right-full.

Stephen Kelly and Paul McShane were also mentioned, while Darren O'Dea remains in the frame, though Sean St Ledger would come straight back into the team if available.

Keith Fahey's chances of midfield involvement remain in the balance.

"He can play left, right sometimes in his club," Trapattoni said. "With us, I was 80pc, 90pc sure he had good personality to play in midfield. He's confident with the ball."

Despite Shane Long's starring show against a battle-hardened Uruguayan rearguard, Kevin Doyle and captain Robbie Keane remain in pole position to keep their respective places in attack. Trapattoni added that Keane could drop back if Ireland needed to revert to a five-man midfield at any point. Nevertheless, Reading star Long (opposite page) hinted in the aftermath of the Uruguayan encounter that he now has a strong case.

"Hopefully I've put a few problems in the manager's head," he said.

Irish Independent

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