Northern Ireland fans must be told how tickets were allocated

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

There are still serious questions to be asked about how Northern Ireland’s tickets have been allocated for the team’s Euro 2016 matches.

It is perplexing how many longstanding Northern Ireland fans have lost out in the allocation to less regular supporters.

The IFA said that it passed on to UEFA a points-based priority system for the tickets, based on how regularly fans attended the national side’s games.

Yesterday we reported on dedicated Northern Ireland fans such as Ivan South from Claudy and Colin McAuley from north Belfast who clearly should have been eligible for a full complement of tickets, in light of their lengthy records of attending NI games.

Given that there were 50,000 applications for around 30,000 seats, accommodating the most loyal core of fans should not have been difficult.

The outcome makes it seem that a random lottery was used to allocate seats, as some fans have said they were told by UEFA, rather than the priority list system that UEFA says was used.

The whole episode has dampened the joy that there has been over Northern Ireland’s stunning qualification for Euro 2016, at the top of its group, and led to disappointment over the coming tournament for some of the people who ought to have been most looking forward to the occasion.

The allocation also seems to render pointless the three months of work that the IFA put in with its fans and supporters to create the priority list.

At least UEFA has now made available almost 1,000 extra tickets, which will go to the fans at the top of the priority list.

But answers are still needed in relation to how this allocation was made.

Loyal fans are particularly important to a small country such as Northern Ireland.

In this instance it is a small team that is trying to bask in its first major international qualifying achievement in 30 years.