Attendances up but take from ticket sales down

Wed, Oct 7, 2009, 01:00

2009 CHAMPIONSHIP SEASON:TOTAL ATTENDANCE figures for the 2009 football and hurling championships have increased 4,000 on last year – from 1,519,000 to 1,523,000 – but the average match attendance is in fact down, and so too will be the income from ticket sales.

This is explained by the greater number of championship matches played in 2009, plus the increase in ticket packages which were made available at a reduced cost.

However, GAA president Christy Cooney has welcomed the figures, which he says are “extremely positive” and reflect the enduring attraction of Gaelic games even in tough economic conditions. And on the whole they are still impressive; the 1,523,000 was the total across 95 matches, or an average of 16,032 per game.

In 2008, however, there were only 87 matches (given there was one less round in the football qualifiers), which made for an average attendance of 17,458.

“It’s still extremely positive,” said Cooney, “and we’re very happy. I think a lot of it is down to the ingenuity of our ticketing people, and the packages they put together. But also the good work that was done by the provinces. So we’re very happy to be up a few thousand. Even in a break-even situation we would have been very happy, in a difficult year that we had, economically, in the country.

“It shows our games are still very attractive, and that people still feel they get value for money. But it’s equally important to ensure that we give value for money. Our players perform extremely well, and the standard of sportsmanship this year has been absolutely outstanding.”

In this year’s annual report, the GAA budgeted for a seven per cent drop in gate income, although the exact income figure for 2009 is not yet known. “We’re going to be down a little bit financially this year,” admitted Cooney, “because many of the tickets were sold as packages. But so be it. The most important thing for us is to get people to our games.

“But we always hoped we’d hold our numbers. Exactly how the income has worked out is hard to know at this stage. It depends on the returns of the provincial councils as well. But while we are going to be down a bit, we’re very pleased with the numbers as a whole. It’s my understanding as well that the crowds showing up for the club championships right now are very good as well. So, overall, I think it will be an excellent year’s attendances.”

Even accounting for the extra games this year the GAA are well satisfied: “Well it’s swings and roundabouts,” said Cooney. “If you look at some attendances, like the Leinster hurling championship, then attendances are definitely up, with Galway involved. But in the overall context the numbers are up, and that’s the most important thing. It’s probably the highest attendance of all-time. So we’re thankful to our supporters.”

The special ticket packages introduced this year will most likely be expanded in 2010, while Cooney also said there were no plans to increase ticket prices.

“We’ll sit down now and review the year, and look at what packages we can put together for next year to make the games even more attractive. We’d like to see the national league ticket package take off more. It went reasonably well last year, but we’ll put a strong emphasis on expanding that for 2010, which also gives people the right for tickets later on in the championship. We believe that’s a very attractive package, and the people who bought it got great value out of it.

“But there’s no plan to increase prices, and it won’t happen. But there’s no pressure to drop the headline ticket prices either. But again we will be putting attractive packages together for next year.”

Cooney was speaking in Croke Park at the launch of the GAA’s seventh annual National Games Development Conference, which is on the theme of “Optimising Playing Performance – Nurturing a culture of Skill and Will” – and takes place on November 20/21st.

Among the speakers are Tipperary hurling manager Liam Sheedy, Gary Keegan of the Irish Institute of Sport, DJ Carey and Tony Healy (currently part of the Irish Handball team at the World Championships in Portland, Oregon), Cork football trainer Aidan O’Connell and Tipperary hurling trainer Cian O’Neill.

The cost of attending is €75 and information can be obtained at (01) 8658625, emailing gamesdevelopment@gaa.ie or at www.gaa.ie.