Some things in life become really difficult when the reality is it should be as easy as one, two, three.
Usually, during some league matches, dependent on the venue, I hop on to Ticketmaster to buy GAA tickets for my father and I. Come championship, that process will be non-existent, and I’ll have to ask participating county boards for wheelchair-access tickets, but that’s another story.
While queuing up to be admitted into Austin Stacks recently, a woman handed my father a leaflet. The steward that brought us to our seats informed us it was a protest to raise awareness about the impact on people of the cashless society.
Here’s the thing about a cashless society – it makes me quite independent. No more fumbling with my purse in my bag or holding money in my mouth like some everyday criminal bringing money across borders, no more awkwardness, just two clicks on the phone, a tap and away we go.
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But I can also see more people struggling with it, especially vulnerable people within the GAA. I’ve witnessed older men at turnstiles with cash hoping to buy a ticket, ticket vans abandoned nearby, tempting those who haven’t lived with technology and are therefore afraid of it.
The idea of having the GAA go paperless is, in theory, good. The execution in practice has been far from ideal.
Ticketmaster can be difficult to navigate. This incident may not be sports-related, but a few friends of mine decided to try to get tickets for Eurovision. Initially, the arena in Liverpool told me I had to register as disabled, and I earned my official disabled badge, and my disabled badge guaranteed a different queue or process to get tickets. Instead, all those who had to undergo a verification process to become disabled were left scrambling, and they sold out within minutes.
There was no real disappointment from my side in not getting tickets, but I cannot understand how someone who wasn’t very good with technology, someone with a visual impairment, or anyone who just doesn’t trust the internet with their information could get tickets.
This is who the GAA have chosen and contracted to help sell tickets. This is a company that has added fees that amount to roughly 30 per cent of a ticket’s face value. This is happening when the cost of living is skyrocketing as pay packets are being slashed in cutbacks.
The GAA itself has increased ticket prices. Albeit a preseason competition, getting into the McGrath Cup final with my father in Mallow cost me around €20 for two tickets. Attending Division One games sets me back €18 for just one ticket. The GAA can’t do anything about the cost of fuel or the ridiculous hikes in hotel prices but it could keep tickets at lower prices, especially for a family of four.
The whole fuss around cashless tickets in the GAA raises an interesting question. With the world increasingly embracing the cashless society – according to Minister for Finance Michael McGrath, over 60 per cent of transactions in 2022 were by card or tap – you’d wonder whether this is slowly becoming a poorer or colder place for older people.
Age Action NI and various groups representing the elderly have criticised the GAA for their move to becoming cashless. Once a ticket is purchased online or at one of the partnering supermarkets, the various confectionery stands and kiosk to buy my match day programme all require cash, not card. Security questions can be raised, but why are the issues not the same once I’m inside the gate?
With the world rapidly moving towards a cashless existence, the reality for those vulnerable within our society is the same. Freedom of movement is disappearing. As a wheelchair user, I’ve been frustrated countless times by the fact that I can’t wake up on a Saturday morning and just venture off to a game like my friends do.
The same principle now applies to those who want to carry cash. They can’t set off for a match a few hours before it starts, and heaven help them if they don’t have anyone around that can help.
If the GAA want to stand over their move to Ticketmaster, fine, but there needs to be tweaks. Either all ticket prices go up, and those who turn up at turnstiles with a free travel card or an identification card go in for free on a first-come, first-served basis, or the GAA start engaging with communities and tech companies to promote digital literacy.
An old dog very rarely learns new tricks, but that’s no reason to discard them from future operations.