Prior to every year's All-Ireland football final there was a great quote in the ‘Irish Examiner.’ A football fan said he had attended all the games and that he was not sure if he was going to get a ticket. He went on to say that hoped to get two Hill-16 tickets that were side-by-side. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and presume he was being humorous.
He will probably end up walking down O’Connell Street paying the touts 300 euro for a decent ticket.
But there are many as uninformed as our friend above, who use the difficulty in getting All-Ireland tickets to have another swipe at the GAA. If everyone who claims to have attended all their county's League games were actually being truthful, then we should be seeing League attendances around the forty thousand mark.
Now don't get me wrong, there are people who attend League games that have a genuine difficulty in getting All-Ireland tickets but the numbers are small. I remember one couple who used to attend county training sessions but were not members of any club and therefore did not get to go the Croke Park in September. However, these few genuine people are vastly outnumbered by those who claim to support the GAA week in week out and cannot get tickets.
Let me suggest a solution. Offer people who pay admission to League games an option on buying an All-Ireland ticket if their county qualifies for the final. There are a number of practical ways this could be done.
Let me spell out two in a little more detail: One way would have the GAA offering a season League ticket to a county's home games - let's say Cork's home Hurling League games. If entry to one game was £7.50 and Cork had four home games then the ticket would cost £30. In the event of Kerry qualifying for the All-Ireland Football final then a League season ticket holder would be entitled to buy an All-Ireland stand ticket at face value.
This option could only be exercised if the county for which you hold your Leaguer season ticket is one of the two counties in the All-Ireland final.
What would happen if this scheme was in operation for next year's National Leagues? For a start, it would provide genuine supporters with an opportunity of getting an All-Ireland ticket if their team was involved.
It would be a public relations winner on this front. It would probably generate additional revenues and attendances from the Leagues. The critics will say that it will result in the wealthy buying up the season tickets, not going to the matches and then going to the All-Ireland final.
Yes, there would be people who would behave like this but a careful look at this criticism is useful. The person is effectively paying £30 over and above the face value of an All-Ireland ticket if they are lucky enough for their team to qualify.
Imagine a 'cute Cork Man' who tried such a scheme during the 1990's. He would have handed over £30 every year and only got an All-Ireland ticket (which he would have had to pay for) in 1990, 1992 and 1999. In the meantime, the genuine supporter would have got to see the League games as well as the All-Irelands.
There is another way of providing the option that would eliminate the above problems but would entail more administrative costs. This second way would be to raffle a certain number of options at half-time during League games. Suppose you raffled a thousand at each of Kerry’s home football league games. The names of the winners could be placed on the following game's programme, the county's webpage or Aertel page.
Both schemes would encourage people to go to League games and reward the genuine supporter. Imagine a cold spring afternoon. The guy/gal who owns a season ticket is more likely to head out to the League game having already paid. Equally, someone who has to hand over IR£7.50 at the gate is more likely to go if they think there is a potential All-Ireland ticket in it.
The GAA would not lose a penny on ticket sales. In fact they would probably be big winners from the extra numbers. They would be facilitating the genuine supporter. They would not forcing people to buy these tickets because you could still take your chances the old way.