Another batch of extra Euro 2016 tickets has been released to Northern Ireland fans in the wake of a furore over the original allocation process for this summer’s football showpiece in France.
A Stormont committee was told almost 600 additional tickets are being made available by Uefa - 505 for the encounter against Ukraine in Nice and 93 for the clash against world champions Germany in Paris.
It comes after almost extra 1,300 tickets were stumped up by Uefa for the opening game in Nice against Poland after many lifelong supporters were left fuming when a loyalty scheme had apparently counted for nothing.
Irish Football Association (IFA) chiefs outlined the latest ticket boost as they gave evidence about the allocation controversy to the Assembly’s Culture, Arts and Leisure Committee.
IFA chief executive Patrick Nelson, who said Uefa had made an “inadvertent error” in the allocation process, said he hoped even more tickets could be secured.
“If we can get more tickets, we absolutely will,” he said.
It was not all positive news from the IFA officials as they informed members a number of disabled supporters had been denied tickets because Uefa had not recognised their “blue badges” as an appropriate means to verify their need for special access arrangements.
IFA sales and marketing manager Heather Wright said the association was in the process of querying Uefa’s stance on behalf of the affected fans.
“It appears some of our fans have failed, and they have provided blue badges as proof of disability, and it appears that has been deemed ineligible,” she said.
She added: “We aren’t sure of the number of fans who are affected by that.”
Ahead of Uefa’s allocation roll-out last week, the IFA had devised a points system with the aim of ensuring fans who had attended the most qualifying and friendly matches got first preference when it came to tickets for this summer’s tournament in France.
But fans who had amassed numerous loyalty points were scratching their heads after they missed out on tickets while others with little or no points secured them.
The problem focused on Northern Ireland’s opening game against Poland on June 12 - the match with the smallest ticket allocation (6,800).
The category three price section was worst affected.
Mr Nelson said the fact some fans with no loyalty points had got tickets over long-standing supporters was partly the fault of an unintentional Uefa mistake.
“It was a very small, inadvertent error made by Uefa, particularly with regard to the category three tickets for the Poland game,” he said.
He said there were 2,100 tickets available in category three and the IFA requested Uefa give a third of those to supporters who had opted for the “follow-my-team” option (to attend all Northern Ireland’s games) and two-thirds to individual match applicants.
But Mr Nelson said Uefa did the opposite, reserving two-thirds for the follow-my-team applications.
“We had twice the number of people queuing up to get a ticket from the individual bucket and that’s why half of them didn’t get a ticket,” he explained.
Mr Nelson praised Uefa for working with the IFA to rectify the problem.
He also insisted Europe’s governing body had been left under no illusions as to the IFA’s determination to represent the interests of the fans.
“I think they (Uefa) will be much more aware now of who they’re dealing with at the Irish Football Association,” he said.
“They will know that we won’t lie down and just take any information from them. We will fight the corner for our supporters.”