It would be impossible for me NOT to mention the biggest talking point in local football this past week, and that has to be the European Finals in France this June and Northern Ireland’s ticket fiasco.
Virtually every day last week was like watching a tennis match, one claim was generally matched with a double handed counter claim, and so it went on, and on, and on.
But whilst the arguments and denials of rank incompetence continued relentlessly, the only people who I felt were really being made to suffer were the true Northern Ireland football fans.
If the truth be told it has undoubtedly left a bitter sweet taste in a lot of fans mouths and sick to the pit of their stomach, and in my opinion rightly so.
First up came the news that many Northern Ireland fans were not going to be allocated match tickets for our teams group stage games which they were perfectly entitled to, strange? You bet it was.
But it was only when some other supporters , who didn’t go along to support our team on a regular basis during this Euro campaign, actually came forward to admit that they had indeed received match tickets that the manure really hit the fan, and again in my opinion rightly so.
It’s incredibly hard to fathom that with all the modern technology available and with all these so called well paid competent people at the controls how the hell this type of shambles could ever be allowed to happen!
Yet any of the ‘men in suits’ I saw either on TV or listened to on the radio were in complete denial that it was in any way their departments fault, they may be right, but there again....
Look let’s cut to the chase, someone somewhere is telling ‘porkies’ and at the minute I’m not sure who.
Firstly, how on earth did the part time supporters get ticket preference over the ‘die hard’ fans who spend thousands of pounds each year and are always there to support both home and away, and then how the hell did over a thousand additional tickets suddenly appear out of nowhere once the powers that be suddenly realised there had been one almighty ‘cock-up’?
Then for me its the absolute insult to our intelligence when some of these ‘stool pigeons’ appear with an almost brazen personna in a pitiful attempt to justify their actions and also deflect the blame for the unfolding shambles elsewhere.
However as the week progressed so did the heat on my phone with several desperate, and I might add irate, fans pleading for my help in sourcing tickets.
Indeed one good friend and absolute ‘diehard’ Northern Ireland fan actually rang me up and offered to pay all of my expenses to go over to UEFA headquarters in Switzerland and execute the ‘freedom of information’ act with regard to exactly just what the Irish Football Association had requested re ticket allocation for the Euros.
He wanted proper clarification on the format, methods, system, and procedure adopted in a desperate attempt to shed some true light on what can only be described as yet another shambolic performance by football’s governing bodies, be that UEFA, the IFA, or both.
Yes I know many people will also question the sanity of all those Northern Ireland fans who once we qualified for the finals in France went ahead and immediately booked their flights, accommodation, hire cars etc etc and paying up front in full before they had any firm guarantee that they would get their respective match tickets for the said Northern Ireland games.
In some cases those sceptics may well have a valid argument, but by in large the vast majority of those fans have a perfectly legitimate claim and right to be allocated the necessary match tickets and with that in mind they were perfectly correct to go ahead and book as obviously the best travel and accommodation deals are to be had at the very outset whenever there are plenty to choose from.
We all know only to well that once choice becomes limited then inevitably prices tend to soar, even I would know that!
However this time around Northern Ireland fans have made it quite clear they will not be treated like second class citizens anymore nor are they prepared to accept or tolerate any more ‘blarney’ from the ‘men in suits’.
Indeed several of the ones who contacted me have openly admitted that they fully intend to seek legal advice on total recompense for the considerable amount of money they have already invested on their planned trip to France this coming June and I for one would totally support their actions.
One ever present NI fan even told me he’d actually sold his car in order to raise the necessary cash required so as to realise his dream and do as he always does and that’s support his beloved Northern Ireland both home and away.
Yet in spite of his incredible sacrifice he was apparently deemed not acceptable to qualify for any EURO Finals NI tickets - astonishing!
Another good friend who openly admits to watching Northern Ireland only at home (and not at any away games), applied for Euro final tickets just on the off chance that the demand may be under subscribed and was astounded when confirmation arrived last week that he had been accepted and his subsequent match tickets would soon be on their way to him.
He is now completely embarrassed by it all, but why should he be? He’s done absolutely nothing wrong and therefore has nothing whatsoever to be concerned about.
The problem here doesn’t concern the ticket applicants, the fault here lies totally at the feet (or on the desks) of those in power who devised and conducted the allocation of the EURO Finals tickets to the most deserving of Northern Ireland football fans at the very outset.
They are the culprits who need to hang their heads in shame, not the applicants.
But such is the totally discredited reputation of World Football administration in tatters with the continuing debacle at FIFA, and also having witnessed both UEFA and the IFA not exactly cover themselves in glory over recent years when it comes to major decision making and exuding proper leadership.
I shall reserve judgement on who in this instance is found guilty of misleading information, passing the buck, and telling porkies in the process.
However one thing I will be giving my full support and backing to is the right for every legitimate Northern Ireland fan who has been ‘shafted’ in this ticket fiasco.
Each has a legal right to a proper open, honest, and transparent explanation as to why they were overlooked.
Considering how loyal these fans have been over the years its the very least they deserve, so to the men in suits - the next move is all yours. LB