The fact that G.A.A. Officials in recent days defended what they charge to gain entry to their games is something that was expected.
When there is something to be defended in the G.A.A. officials at times are very quick to do so and often do so using more spin than any political representative would even dream of using.
Two years ago, Waterford’s John Mullane came out and called on officials to lower the cost that they charge patrons to see games.
This past week, Ken McGrath went public and told the Munster Council that the €30 they were charging some fans to go and see the upcoming Munster Semi Final between Waterford and Clare was too much.
The Munster Council and indeed Boards up and down the country however seems to think what they charge patrons to see their games is fair. They will even tell you that there is discounts available by buying tickets through the clubs as opposed to from Championship Sponsors, through Ticket Master or even tickets they make available to the general public themselves, but these discounts are very small.
On the Munster Council’s face-book page recently, I tried to engage in a debate with whatever official that was on line that night on their pricing structures.
The usual spin was quickly brought out. I was told as if I did not know already, so much from each gate goes back to the clubs through grants for various developments.
While much of these grants are welcome by clubs and very necessary, you have to wonder is there a need for so many to be paid out.
In recent years Hurl Walls have seem to become the in and must have thing. Earlier this year, a club official within Co Waterford pointed out that a wall their club had built cost in the region of €18,000, much of which was obtained through a Munster Council Grant.
The funny thing about it is that I have passed this clubs grounds on a number of occasions and never once have seen anybody inside or near the Hurl Wall. Could it be that I have passed it at the wrong time in the day?
I don’t know how many walls there is in Co Waterford let alone Munster or even across Ireland as a whole, but would be interested to know how many are actually used on a frequent basis as opposed to a regular one.
Some time back, I spoke to a man who played senior hurling for Waterford in the 1970’s and 1980’s. He played with one of the smaller clubs in the county but was no mean hurler in his day, learning the skills of the game in the day’s pre indoor hurling halls and pre hurl walls.
When he heard of the money given out each year through grants to clubs he had a number of questions to ask. He mentioned areas where ball alleys were built (indoor and outdoor) down the years and asked why clubs were not using them to help develop the skills of young players. He was of course correct. His own Club in the past year or two have built a wall at their grounds which is by and large mainly unused while a handball alley lies again largely unused a short walk away (even for me) from the G.A.A. Field.
This year G.A.A. Officials up and down the country are getting the clearest indication yet that the prices they charge have to be seriously looked at.
On WLR fm’s morning Current Affairs Programme – Deise Am, a few weeks back was contacted about the prices charges the Waterford G.A.A. Board charge to see their senior hurling and football games. The caller in question pointed out what he was charged to go and see a programme of games over one weekend. He pointed out that he felt this was above and beyond what was a fair price and said that he would not be attending any more games until the competitions were near their conclusion.
The Gaelic Grounds in Limerick has a capacity of around 49,000. The recent Munster Junior and Senior Football double header involving Waterford and Limerick attracted a capacity of just over 2,000. In the attached photo, the number of empty seats behind the junior team having their photo taken is clear to be seen.
Semple Stadium in Thurles holds just under 54,000 people. For the recent double header involving Tipperary and Kerry in Football and Tipperary and Limerick in hurling) a programme that saw the two beaten finalists in last years All-Ireland finals attracted an attendance of 22,068.
And what about the biggest eye opener of them all.
Croke Park holds 82,000. Dublin are All-Ireland Football Champions. A few years back when they played at Croke Park it was nearly easier to pick the six winning numbers in the Lotto than it was to get a ticket to see the game.
Dublin alone would bring a support of between seventy and seventy-five thousand people.
When they played Louth in the Leinster Senior Football Championship recently on the same day as Wexford and Longford played also in Croke Park, 31,570 people parted with their cash, meaning less than half the ground was occupied.
The G.A.A. every time they are quizzed about their admission prices are very quick to point out that what they charge to gain admission to games is in line with what a person would pay to see Munster or Leinster in the Heineken Cup or for a person to see a champions league game.
Let these sporting bodies charge as they see wish. The G.A.A. had its day when they could name its price for people to see their games and people would pay it. Times are different now.
The day is coming when Rugby and Soccer bodies will have to lower their prices as well. If they refuse to lower them just as the G.A.A. are doing now, it would be interesting to see what will happen.
What G.A.A. Officials have to realise and fast is that they are charging above what fans can afford. What it costs fans to get to games has also risen, but the G.A.A. don’t want to hear this, and will tell you that they are not responsible for these extra costs, which in truth they are not, but these costs plus the cost to gain entry to grounds means that people are keeping what they have in their wallets deep inside the pockets.
Right now, there is two dates in the year when the G.A.A. can justify what they do charge, the All-Ireland Hurling and Football final days. The way the championships are structured in the past two decades mean that the Munster Hurling Final day cannot be included as a date when the G.A.A. can really charge what they can. All-Ireland Final day is now the only dates where demand for tickets outstrips what the G.A.A. can supply.
However, it’s not always right to criticise the G.A.A so lets finish on a complementary note and some praise for some.
The West Waterford G.A.A. Board have made a very brave call this year and has prised admission to their games very competitively.
I have to admit, I have not attended many of the Divisional games in the West of the County in recent times, but have heard some of figures collected at the gates mentioned and am pleasantly surprised.
Later in the year, when the accounts of the Board are made public, it will be interesting to go through them and figure out roughly how many people attended each game. Right now from what I am hearing, its looking promising and where as people right around the country are not attending games, they are doing so in West Waterford.
So well done to the officers of the West Waterford G.A.A. Board and hopefully other boards will examine what you appear to have done and will follow suit.