No review of this summer's ticket prices: McAvoy
ULSTER GAA secretary Brian McAvoy says the provincial body will not review its ticket pricing structure for the rest of the summer despite apparent public unrest over both the increase in prices and the decision to begin charging U16s into the terraces.
The weekend past saw just 5,589 attend Down’s win over Antrim on Saturday evening, a game which clashed with the televised Champions League final involving Liverpool and Real Madrid.
A larger-than-expected 9,356 turned out in the baking Celtic Park sunshine on Sunday to see Donegal overcome Derry, but it was the fourth game out of five this summer that failed to break the 10,000 barrier.
That has not happened this decade, with only one game in each of the four previous seasons failing to reach that mark. Even at its low point in 2011 only three of the first five games dipped beneath 10,000, and the following season saw a marked recovery after a reduction in ticket prices.
The average attendance for 2018 at this point is 9,401, down from 11,401 last year. Average attendances for the preliminary round and quarter-finals in the Ulster SFC have fallen every year since 2014, when 14,524 was the bar at this point in the competition.
Prices increased this year to £24 for a pre-purchased seated ticket, or £30 on the day. The prices will remain the same for the semi-finals but will increase to £30 (€35) in advance of the final, or £35 (€40) on the day.
Terrace tickets are also more expensive, with the price rising from £13 to £15 when bought in advance, or as high as £20 if purchased on the day.
Speaking to The Irish News, McAvoy admitted that the ticket prices were a factor but “not the main factor”, and said that Ulster GAA is “not particularly” concerned by the fall in attendances.
“There are a number of factors in that, three in particular. First is Saturday night games. Last year we had one and it was our lowest attendance, the Monaghan-Fermanagh game (7,743).
"This year our two Saturday night games have been our lowest – Fermanagh v Armagh (8,421), and then Saturday’s game in Newry (5,589). Obviously you had the big counter attraction on Saturday night and that did take away from some of the crowd.
“There have been issues around ticket pricing. We looked at it in the round and in terms of sterling prices for preliminary and first round, there’s a £2 increase to both terrace and stand. While I’m sure it may be a factor, it’s not the only factor.
“The other thing is the new structures this year in making everything much more condensed. You would have had some people, not a lot, who would have gone to all the Ulster Championship games. The Saturday-Sunday thing and reducing it to seven weeks for the entire championship is no doubt a factor.
”Given the Super 8s at the end of the season, a lot of people are maybe waiting to see how that pans out and wanting to take in those games as opposed to earlier games. We’re still finding our feet in this new system.
“We’re about 9,000 down [on the overall attendance so far] but it’s not a surprise. I think I did hint in an interview with Brendan Crossan that the new format would impact on attendances and that’s come to pass.”
In tomorrow’s Irish News, Cahair O’Kane quizzes Brian McAvoy on falling attendances, the decision to charge U16s into games and whether the GAA has overlooked the north when it comes to championship TV rights