Capacities purely notional as pods proving problematic for championship games

Administrators admit system is far from perfect as they look to get as many as possible into games

A Kilkenny fan celebrates a score  during the Leinster SHC Final at Croke Park. Photograph: Brian Reilly-Troy/Inpho

A Kilkenny fan celebrates a score during the Leinster SHC Final at Croke Park. Photograph: Brian Reilly-Troy/Inpho

 

Patricia Clear of the GAA’s Leinster Council says that the allocation of tickets in this year’s championship has been very challenging. As the person in charge of taking in bookings and organising distribution, she has had to cope with the Government crowd limits and how to maximise the take-up.

“I’ve been doing tickets here for 20 years and this has been the most difficult championship I’ve ever been through, trying to allocate tickets and make sure we do everything that we should do.”

One problem is that the crowd limit of 18,000 is nearly impossible to achieve. Spectators at Croke Park are organised in pods of two, three, four and five with two being obviously more popular than five but if all the five-pod allocations aren’t taken up the capacity goes down.

“The point of the pods,” she says, “is so that people don’t find themselves sitting beside people they don’t know without the requisite social distancing. If the pods of five don’t sell, we can release them as pods of three for instance but the missing two will come off the capacity.”

Last weekend’s two-day Leinster events programme – hurling final on Saturday evening and football semi-finals double bill on Sunday – saw attendances of little over 12,000 each day.

This weekend the Connacht football final between Mayo and Galway will be played in Croke Park.

Provincial chief executive John Prenty says that they are confident of maximising the attendance but he too makes the point that 18,000 is a purely notional capacity – but well in excess of anything that could be staged in the province. At present, though, he says that they’re nearly sold out.

“There are over 12,000 tickets sold. We can probably realistically get to 14,000. To get to 18,000 there’d have to be a perfect take-up on all of the pods so it’s a false ceiling in a way but we’ll have six times what we could have got at a Connacht venue.

“We distribute to the counties and once the clubs have taken their allocation we put up the rest on Ticketmaster online. What’s left now [Thursday afternoon] is around 1,000 or 1,500 and there’s still two days to go.”

Clear outlines how the tickets are distributed, starting with what goes to the competing counties and Leinster’s football final has been complicated by the addition of another fixture, the final of one of graded All-Ireland hurling championships (Ring, Rackard and Meagher), which will also be played in Croke Park on Sunday week.

Premium seat holders are put into a draw and if successful they have an opportunity to purchase.

“For the Leinster football final we have given the two counties, Dublin and Kildare, 5,000 for their clubs. We’ve been told there’s a double header and some tickets have to made available for that. We send a spreadsheet out to the clubs and people write in the pod-size they’re interested in.

“They have 48 hours to purchase out of their account and if they don’t we put the same tickets on open sale in pods of two, three, four or five online [with Ticketmaster]. The point is to eliminate face-to-face contact at point of sale.”

She says that some tickets for the Leinster final will be available to the public. “There will be. Either Monday morning or Monday evening.”

Three of this year’s provincial football finals will take place in Croke Park to avail of the higher capacity. On Saturday week, Monaghan play Tyrone in the Ulster final and provincial chief executive Brian McAvoy doesn’t anticipate many spare tickets for open sale.

“There’s a certain allocation for the competing counties and a small distribution to others in the province. There may be a small number of tickets available for public sale but it will be very few.”

Munster is the only exception and as a result Sunday’s Cork-Kerry final is going to be heavily over-subscribed. Ed Donnelly of the provincial council has to deal with the permitted capacity of 2,500 in Killarney’s Fitzgerald Stadium although a submission to the Department of Sport to raise that figure to 4,000 is awaiting adjudication.

“I’m hopeful that might change but it’s not our decision,” he says. “We’re going on the basis of 2,500 and anything else is a bonus.

“For all the matches the vast majority goes to the participating counties with a few held back for sponsors and council members but upwards of 90 per cent goes to the counties.”

Will there be any availability for public sale?

“We normally get 30-plus thousand at this fixture so no chance.”

Saturday’s All-Ireland hurling qualifiers are fixed for Munster venues and there has been uncertainty about the permitted capacity.

“We were originally told that it was 500,” says Donnelly. “We were going on the basis of 3,000 or 4,000, which we had last weekend but we were told that for qualifiers, 500 is the likely figure.”

Later on Thursday evening it was announced that the permitted attendance had been raised to 3,500 for Clare-Cork in Limerick and 4,400 for Galway-Waterford in Thurles.

It was also announced that the Munster final in Killarney would be restricted to 2,500.

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