Supporters who attended Northern Ireland games when Windsor Park was rarely full to capacity are to be repaid for their loyalty when the IFA ask them to shell out one payment of £165 for the privilege of watching the team in forthcoming World Cup qualifiers. The block-booking scheme, which forms fans’ only chance of securing tickets for competitive games, will cover 5 matches as opposed to the previous scheme’s 6 and still manages to work out more expensive.
Despite weighing in at a hefty £33 per match, fans’ anger will concentrate on the removal of a 50/50 cost spreading scheme whereby a £10 surcharge allowed the payment to be made in two separate instalments. As ever it will be the most committed supporters who foot the bill and those with low incomes and families will suffer the most.
Although the IFA clearly should not be expected to remain immune from the laws of supply and demand, this short-sighted policy shows scant regard for supporters. There has been considerable expenditure in the association in recent times with a new computer system and other capital expenses. It seems that the organisation is moving to boost cash-flow in the short-term and in order to do so they are prepared to risk the anger of fans. In actual fact in removing the 50/50 scheme the IFA will deprive themselves of £10 additional revenue from each supporter who would have chosen that payment plan. Immediate greed has prevailed against sound business sense.
As if to exacerbate supporters’ sense of alienation, bungling DCAL minister Edwin Poots has been dispatched to the US with sanction to secure Northern Ireland a friendly with MLS side LA Galaxy! If this story had arisen on April 1 I would have instantly dismissed it as incredible. It offends the dignity of Northern Ireland, one of the first international sides in world football, to be chasing friendly games with LA Whothefeck! Why would we want to play a friendly against an American club side? Because Beckham plays for them? Our international team is not a circus!