The Irish Cup Final is the local game’s showpiece event, and an opportunity to celebrate the local football.
It should be a carnival occasion and if the IFA had the ambition, it would provide an opportunity to try to fill as many of the 18,000 seats in the redeveloped National Stadium at Windsor Park as possible in a bid to grow the game.
Prior to last year’s final between Glenavon and Linfield there was an attempt to charge fans £20 – twice the normal admission to an Irish League game.
Following fan protests, this was reduced to £15.
Sadly, it would appear that the lesson was not learned, because this year there is another attempt to charge fans £20 to watch Coleraine play Linfield, with £10 for concessions.
This will do absolutely nothing to help attract families to the game or encourage neutral fans to turn out. I myself went to the last two finals as a neutral.
Far too many people seem to think that football is a game to be watched on TV instead of live in a stadium. As a Coleraine season ticket holder and fan of the game in general, I would love to see the IFA market the Irish Cup final properly and set out to fill as many seats as possible with fans of both clubs and neutrals.
Prices could be reduced not doubled, and a real effort could be made to engage with schools in south Belfast and Coleraine – or even Provincewide – in a bid to encourage a new generation of fans to attend football.
Certainly the FAI adopt an entirely different approach to Cup Final in the Republic, where prices are lowered and crowds have increased to over 20,000.
Unfortunately many local fans believe the IFA is only concerned with the national side and not the local club game.
Fortunately, the IFA has a golden opportunity to challenge this perception. Local football fans certainly deserve better than having prices doubled to play a cup final in a stadium that was after all built entirely from public money in the first place.
Stephen Barr, Portstewart