Northern Ireland

Age NI urges GAA to reconsider no cash ticket policy

Campaigners opposed to the GAA's ticketing policy outside Healy Park in Omagh
Campaigners opposed to the GAA's ticketing policy outside Healy Park in Omagh

A CHARITY that campaigns for the elderly has called on the GAA to reconsider its ticketing policy for entrance to games.

Age NI wrote to the Ulster Council outlining its concerns last week.

The latest intervention came as campaigners held a protest outside Healy Park in Omagh ahead of Sunday's national league clash between Tyrone and Donegal.

Traditionally those attending GAA grounds paid in cash at the gate to gain entry.

However, under a contentious new policy brought in by Croke Park officials last year, tickets for any GAA game can now only be bought online in advance with no facilities provided to pay by cash or card at the turnstile.

Fears have previously been raised that the move could have a disproportionate impact on older people.

In its letter to the Ulster Council Age NI has highlighted its concerns over the policy.

Dr Paschal McKeown, Charity Director Age NI, said the GAA has an important part to play in community life.

"Age NI recognises that sporting organisations like the GAA play a key role in encouraging their participation and involvement in sport and leisure activities and in being part of their community," she said.

She added that as part of Age NI’s Lived Experience Survey, carried out in 2021, "older people identified access to cash and retention of local banking services as being a key issue".

"We fear that adopting a ticketing policy which precludes the use of cash may exclude and have an adverse impact on older people, particularly those who are over 75 years," she said.

"We therefore would ask the GAA to re-consider this decision and re-introduce cash payment as an alternative payment option."

Last year Age Action, which is based in the south, also called on the GAA to reconsider the current system.

More than 1,800 people have already signed an online petition calling on the GAA to change its policy.

Co Derry native Nodlaig Ni Bhrollaigh is spearheading a campaign to end to the controversial policy.

A former ladies footballer with the Oak Leaf county, Ms Ni Bhrollaigh is from a prominent GAA family and her brother Joe Brolly, a well known pundit, won an All-Ireland title with the county in 1993.

Her father Francie Brolly, a former Sinn Féin assembly member, who died in 2020, was an inter-county Gaelic footballer with Derry and played both hurling and football for Dungiven while her husband is former Antrim hurler Ciarán Herron.

"This decision has a huge impact on some of the most marginalised and vulnerable in our community," she said.

Ms Ni Bhrollaigh, who took part in the protest outside Healy Park on Sunday, said there was support from "most people" attending.

A spokesman for the Ulster Council said: "Ulster GAA today received a letter from Age NI and it will be considered and responded to in due course."