GAA Football

Ulster GAA gate receipts down 17.5 per cent after ticket price rise

The overall attendance at last year's Ulster Championship was down by 30 per cent, meaning a 20 per cent reduction in income from gate receipts despite an increase in ticket prices.

FOLLOWING an increase in ticket prices for last summer’s championship, Ulster Council’s income from gate receipts fell by 17.5 per cent in 2018, The Irish News can reveal.

The provincial body faced criticism last summer for increasing admission prices, with a first round ticket purchased on the day costing £30, and one for the Ulster final hitting fans for £40.

Attendances dropped from a total of 124,921 in 2017 to just 88,845 last year, a reduction of almost 30 per cent in a single season.

The average attendance per game of 11,106 is the lowest in recent times, well below even the disappointing figures from the 2011 season.

That led to a reduction in the provincial body’s income from the games. Ulster GAA brought in £1.55m from gate receipts in 2018, compared to £1.88m the year previous.

The provincial body’s income is generated by the Ulster Championship, the Dr McKenna Cup and the provincial club championships.

Games in the Allianz League do not apply as they are organised centrally by Croke Park, with the income split between the counties and the GAA.

In his report to last week’s convention, Ulster secretary Brian McAvoy said that the reduction in attendances was “not unexpected” and, while he admitted that the ticket price increase “was no doubt a contributory factor to the reduction in attendances, it was by no means the main factor”.

He also apportioned blame for the quality of games, the tightened championship schedule, the use of Saturday evenings – one of which clashed with Liverpool’s Champions League final – and the lack of any first round ‘derby’ fixtures.

His report did reveal that attendances at the provincial club championships had gone up, even in spite of the absence of a Derry v Antrim club hurling tie, which suggests an even more significant dip in takings from inter-county games.

Having indicated last year in his annual remarks that a ticket price increase was likely, McAvoy made no mention in this year’s report of a review of the prices for this summer.

An increase in incoming grants allowed Ulster Council to balance out their takings, bringing in just over £6m last year, down by just under £170,000 from the previous year.

At just under £265,000, the body’s commercial income for the year remained almost exactly as it had been.

Just over £3.75m of the £5.8m it paid out went towards ‘games and community development’ and ‘grants and subscriptions’, while just over £1m was spent on ‘administration and general expenses’.

The news come in a week when the GAA has come under fire for increasing its ticket prices for both the Allianz Leagues and the latter stages of the All-Ireland series’, with tickets to the All-Ireland finals moving up to €90.

GAA president John Horan defended the hike as a “business decision” and said: "Anyone running a business and having a product when you go for a price increase, you'll always have to take it on board that there's the law of diminishing returns, that if you up the price, you may diminish your sales.

"At Congress last year I did say that we would do more for the clubs. I'd like to follow through on that and we've increased the club funding and development areas this year by €500,000, it's going up by another €500,000 next year so, in the space of two years, it'll have gone up by 50% or €1m.

“I think it's key at this time when the economy has lifted and clubs probably will take on development projects that we're there to be seen to support them."

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