With many of Northern Ireland’s most loyal fans continuing to live in hope of tickets for Euro 2016 in France, it has been revealed that the Irish Football Association turned down the chance to distribute around 1,400 to the most deserving supporters.
Their decision is likely to raise eyebrows among those who missed out on tickets and then lambasted UEFA’s scheme to ensure the most faithful fans had priority as “shambolic”.
Last week, many members of the Green and White Army vented their anger on social media, saying supporters who have been block-bookers for international fixtures were not allocated tickets while infrequent attenders were facilitated.
Within days, UEFA announced that an additional 1,276 tickets for the opening game against Poland were being made available to the IFA. At the time, IFA chief executive Patrick Nelson said: “With 50,000 applications for 30,000 tickets (across all three of NI’s group games) there will still inevitably be supporters who will be disappointed.”
However, Mr Nelson added: “I believe that this extra allocation will further help us deliver on that aim and I would like to thank UEFA for their help throughout this ongoing process.”
South of the border, the Football Association of Ireland decided to accept the 2,000 tickets on offer to each of the qualifying nation’s governing bodies – declaring they would be used to “ensure that the most loyal supporters were catered for first”.
A statement on the FAI website said it had “opted to manage the distribution of tickets, in line with many participating national associations”.
It goes on to say: “These tickets will be used to satisfy the demand from supporters with a proven match attendance record, who have missed out on securing tickets through the UEFA portal. The same ranking system used during the initial process will be in operation for this batch of tickets, so the most deserving supporters are selected.”
Northern Ireland have not qualified for a major tournament since the 1986 World Cup in Mexico and demand for Euro 2016 tickets has been phenomenal. For their first appearance at the European championship finals, Northern Ireland have been drawn in Group C and will face world champions Germany, Ukraine and Poland.
Yesterday, a spokesman for the IFA said they had declined the bulk of the 2,000 tickets on offer as it was clear they were coming from the overall number designated for Northern Ireland supporters.
“Every association was offered 2,000 tickets for their own allocation. However, UEFA made it clear that this would come off the total of tickets that were available for fans. The more that we took, the less that would be made available for fans in the ticket portal.”
The spokesman added: “Therefore, we worked out the smallest number that we could take to accommodate the internal needs of the association – i.e. players’ families, the association board and sponsor obligations which was 600. This meant the remaining 1,400 went back into the fans’ allocation.”