Football fans have been angered by a 33% price hike in the cost of a ticket for this year’s Irish Cup final.
The showpiece game at Windsor Park between Coleraine and Linfield on May 6 – which will bring the curtain down on the 2016/2017 season – will cost supporters £5 more than last year at £20.
There are cheaper concession tickets but the vast majority of fans will pay the full rate.
Last year the standard ticket price for the final between Glenavon and Linfield was £15. A two-goal victory, with strikes from Andy Hall and Kevin Braniff, in that game saw the Lurgan Blues lift the cup for the second time in three years.
Ticket prices for the final are set by the Irish Football Association’s (IFA) challenge cup committee with most of the money generated going to the two finalists.
Sports writer Steven Beacom and pundit Liam Beckett were among those who questioned the wisdom of the pricing policy.
In reply to a Twitter user who branded the decision to charge £20 “mental behaviour,” Mr Beacom replied: “And the IFA wonder why Irish League fans believe the governing body does not care about local football or supporters of local clubs.”
Responding to one fan who suggested the IFA had “put their foot in it” over ticket prices, Mr Beckett responded saying it was “an incredible decision”.
Along with a picture of an IFA ‘Sport for All’ logo, a Linfield fans’ Twitter group posted the message: “Maybe the IFA should take a leaf out of their own book. And make the Irish Cup final affordable for all!!”
Another fan said it was “another avoidable PR disaster from IFA” and added: “£20 a head for the Cup Final? Textbook way to ensure a poor crowd and no neutrals.”
The NI Football Daily fans’ Twitter account posted a series of messages attacking the pricing decision.
“£20 for Irish Cup final tickets? IFA should throw everything at packing the ground out. Not driving people away. Unjustifiable pricing,” it said.
“£15 was more than enough. Impossible to understate how damaging this price structure is. Compare with the FAI: €10 tickets for the final. Pack out stadium. Great atmosphere.”
Some social media users were more sympathetic to the price rise with one saying fans pay much more to watch games in the English leagues all year round – not just a one-off cup final.
A spokesman for the IFA said: “The ticket prices for the Tennent’s Irish Cup final are set by the Challenge Cup Committee of the Irish FA which is made up of representatives of clubs.
“After running costs, 80% of the gate receipts will be split evenly between the two competing finalists.”