LAST WORD COLUMN BY SPORTS EDITOR KIERAN McCARTHY
YOU won’t be surprised to learn that the weekend ticket package that Tipperary GAA has rolled out last year and this year has been a success.
It’s fantastic value for money and it is supporter-friendly. It’s also the way forward. More counties need to follow this example, and they are, Clare being another one.
Cork have gone down an altogether different route. They’ve decided to raise ticket prices for the senior county hurling and football finals.
Last Sunday for the county hurling final, patrons had to pay €25 at the gate compared to €20 in previous seasons. That’s a 25 per cent increase. OAPs and students had to pay €20, up from €15 in previous years. Again, that’s a 25 per cent increase.
The board will argue that adult tickets were available online for €22 until midnight on Saturday.
I’d argue why raise the prices in the first place. Fans tend to agree. Here’s a flavour of the responses from Cork supporters when they learned of the price hikes – ‘Crazy prices’, ‘absolute joke’, ‘screwing the people’, ‘no value to be had’, ‘absolute disgrace’, ‘a very short-sighted move’, ‘robbery’.
€20 should be the maximum that an adult has to pay to attend county finals. This should be the ceiling. No more.
The Cork County Board has got this one badly wrong. They should be devising attractive packages to encourage fans to come to games, not raising the prices and turning people off. They’ll price people out of attending.
What’s worse than the adult price is that OAPs and students are expected to fork out €20 to attend the county finals in Cork. Students are scraping together money for the week, not to mind finding an extra €20 for a county final.
It beggars belief that the top brass in the county seriously felt this was a good move.
The board also says it’s following a Croke Park directive that has instructed all counties to charge a minimum of €20 per adult for all county finals. But according to the42.ie, ‘A Croke Park spokesperson confirmed that no directive was issued to counties in relation to a standard price for county final tickets but they were advised “to ensure they pitch it appropriately to their respective captive audiences”.’
And there are those counties that decided to put their supporters’ interests ahead of financial gain. It cost an adult €15 to attend the Roscommon SFC final – a double-header with the minor A final – last Sunday, and it was €10 for OAPs and students. Longford and Sligo also kept their adult ticket prices at €15.
Meath, Leitrim and Laois did raise their adult tickets to their county finals last Sunday by €5 to €20, but that’s still cheaper than the Cork hurling double-header at Páirc Uí Chaoimh last weekend. The Dublin senior hurling tickets for this weekend are priced at €20 for adults and €15 for OAPs and students.
Different governing body here, but it cost €5 to attend the Cork ladies’ senior football final replay in Cloughduv on Sunday.
But the Cork County Board is remaining steadfast, defending its decision to hike up prices.
‘Having not increased the prices for our senior finals in 12 years, taking into account the fantastic new facilities available to patrons at Páirc Uí Chaoimh and with Croke Park instructing all counties to charge a minimum of €20 per adult for all county finals, the decision was taken to increase our prices from €20 to €25 this year,’ a statement issued to The Southern Star read.
‘However, tickets were available for €22 on pre-sale all week up to Saturday night, which was only a €2 increase on last year. We have continued to offer free admission for U16s into all our county championship games.
‘Also 15 per cent of Sunday’s gate goes back to the participating clubs. Cork is the only county that does this. The increase of €5 brings this contribution back into line with it’s value in 2006, the last time we increased prices.’
The county senior football final will see the same ticket prices apply.
Compare this to what’s on offer in Tipperary where their weekend packages are a breath of fresh air. This weekend for the Tipp county senior hurling final, the ticket prices are: adult €20, OAPs and students €15 and U16s free. But, like previous weekends, they also have their weekend package available for €20.
Depending on a game on Thursday night, supporters can use this ticket for up to eight county games this weekend.
Tipp GAA PRO Joe Bracken explains: ‘A perfect example is one where Clonoulty-Rossmore will play a county junior A hurling semi-final on Saturday and the county senior hurling final on Sunday so their supporters won’t have to put their hands in the pocket twice if they buy the weekend package.’
Throughout the club championships, Tipperary GAA has offered this weekend ticket. The first weekend in September, there were 14 senior and intermediate hurling championship matches spread across the Saturday and Sunday. For just €15, a supporter could attend as many of those matches as they possibly could, depending on throw-in times and fixture clashes. That’s a fantastic initiative to encourage fans to games, and excellent value.
What’s the response to the weekend package been like in Tipperary? ‘Attendances are up in great numbers which is very positive and fantastic to see and we are most appreciative of all our supporters and thank them for rowing in behind the initiative. It’s also a bonus to players as they will tell you it’s great to play in front of large attendances,’ Joe Bracken explains.
Tipperary GAA has the finger on the pulse. Supporters get the chance to travel from venue to venue where possible – and depending on the overlap of times – to see the games of their choice.
Clare GAA is also offering far better value for money than here in Cork. This is a big weekend in the Banner County with minor, junior, intermediate and senior finals to be played, as well as two Clare Cup semi-finals and a junior B football final. A weekend ticket to cover all adult games costs just €25. The senior final on its own is €20 for an adult but the weekend deal, again, is great value.
Let’s, for a moment, say that Cork GAA decided to go down the route of a weekend ticket package for the weekend ahead. A West Cork supporter could take in Kilmacabea and Delanys in a Cork JAFC semi-final in Bandon at 4pm on Saturday, head to Páirc Uí Rinn later for the third instalment of Castlehaven v Duhallow (7.45pm), and, first, maybe catch the second half of Kilbree v Russell Rovers (6pm). And on Sunday, go and watch the PIFC (Fermoy and St Michaels) and PIHC (Courcey Rovers v Charleville) finals at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. All that for €25, now that’s value. That would help swell the crowds, improve the atmosphere, players get to play in front of a larger attendance and the supporter gets value for money. Win, win, win.
The board needs to go back to the drawing board and offer better value for money. Or they will feel the pinch themselves in the long run. It’s not all about money. It should be about the clubs, the players and the supporters.