Northern Ireland news

Northern Ireland fans get extra Euro 2016 tickets after row

Northern Ireland players lift manager Michael O'Neill in the air after qualifying for the Euro 2016 championships. Picture by Niall Carson/PA Wire
John Monaghan and David Young

UEFA has released extra Euro 2016 tickets to Northern Ireland football fans after a furore over the original allocation process.

Some fans, including the head of the main supporters' club, were left angry after missing out on tickets for the team's games in France this summer.

The Irish Football Association (IFA) had devised a points system with the aim of ensuring those who had attended most qualifying and friendly matches got first preference.

However, fans who had amassed many loyalty points missed out on tickets while others with little or no points secured them.

The problem focused on Northern Ireland's opening game against Poland in Nice on June 12 - the match with the smallest ticket allocation of 6,800.

The issue seemed to relate to the price category of tickets fans applied for.

Those with limited or no loyalty points appear to have been able to secure seats in the more expensive areas of the stadium, while dedicated supporters who applied for more in-demand cheaper seats missed out.

Carl McClean, the Ulster Unionist deputy mayor of Ards and North Down Borough Council, said: "I have been to one home game and one away game this campaign. I applied for four Euro 2016 games and have been successful for all four tickets. The IFA need to lean on UEFA heavily to find out what has happened."

The IFA said it had spent "three months" compiling a priority list of supporters who had attended games at the last two qualification campaigns.

Following talks with the association yesterday, UEFA released around 1,000 extra tickets.

A spokesman said: "UEFA are now in a position to make available extra tickets to ensure that those Northern Ireland fans at the top of the Irish FA's priority list will be able to attend the match.

"These tickets will be across all categories and those top-ranking fans who had missed out and who qualify for this new allocation will be contacted directly by UEFA towards the end of the month."

The sport's European governing body said it had applied the IFA's loyalty criteria but in the €55 euro ticket category, demand exceeded supply.

IFA chief executive Patrick Nelson welcomed UEFA's response.

"Our top priority throughout this entire process has always been to ensure that those fans that attended Northern Ireland games home and away in recent years should be at the front of the queue when it came to buying tickets for UEFA Euro 2016," he said.

"Therefore, I would like to thank UEFA for working with the Irish FA to provide some resolution to this issue.

"I would also like to thank those Northern Ireland fans who have purchased tickets for UEFA Euro 2016, and who are travelling to France, for their support of the team."

Republic of Ireland fans, meanwhile, have not yet found out whether they have received tickets, with news expected by the end of February.

The Republic was allocated 13,000 tickets for the opening game against Sweden, 6,000 for the match with Belgium and 7,000 for the final group stage clash with Italy.

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