Ticket price strategy doesn’t seem to add up

Ticket price strategy doesn’t seem to add up

A price increase is never an easy sell but that’s what GAA president John Horan was tasked with doing on Monday. Yesterday, the man Horan appointed to be his medical, scientific and welfare committee chairman Dick Clerkin defended the rise on Newstalk’s Off The Ball AM. But try as they might, their arguments were porous:

“It’s eight years since we did a price increase” - Horan

“There hasn’t been a price increase since 2011” - Clerkin.

It’s actually eight years since the GAA conducted a price review, not a price increase. In 2011, league tickets were reduced from €15 to €13 and stand admission to the All-Ireland finals rose from €70 to €80. In 2014, pre-purchased league tickets for Division 1 and 2 football and Division 1A and 1B hurling games were made available at €10. Three years later, the pre-purchase price rose to €12 and those bought-on-the-day admission returned to €15.

In 2016, stand admission to the Division 1 and 2 final double-header rose from €25 to €35 (on the day price) to fund the post-match 100-year commemoration of the 1916 Rising. The following year, the double-header final ticket was €30. In 2017, stand and terrace tickets for All-Ireland quarter-final and semi-final tickets were hiked by €5.

Last year, both the Leinster and Munster Councils reduce their non-final ticket prices to reflect their hurling championships’ new round-robin system although the Ulster Council increased their prices, which was followed by a drop in attendances. The county-only season ticket, which is now €120 for adults, was available for €75 in 2014 and again as an early bird offer the following year. The juvenile version, which was €10 up to 2014, is now €30.

“Everyone accused us last year of increasing the number of games that were being played because we were all revenue-driven or whatever but that didn’t happen. We didn’t increase our revenues from it. There was no lift in gate receipts. Nobody who wrote or commented or accused us of doing it for that reason (of raising revenue) is going to turn around and say. ‘I got that slightly wrong’.” - Horan.

Horan is right on one count — none of the critics of the Super 8 and/or the provincial hurling round-robin championships for that reason will admit to getting it wrong. Because they aren’t.

But for the Super 8 and the new Leinster and Munster hurling formats, the GAA could have been looking at an awful financial year in 2018. The demise of the provincial football championships was shored up by the format changes.

Roughly 218,000 attended the 12 All-Ireland quarter-final games last year compared to the 147,746 for the two double-headers in 2017. That difference helped to compensate for what was lost in the provinces and the All-Ireland semi-finals (as much as the Super 8 had a negative knock-effect on those games).

“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” - Horan.

This day week, nurses are to strike for 24 hours. The ESRI, which the GAA commissioned to complete a report last year, says a hard Brexit would prompt an annual cost of living increase of between €892 to €1,360 per household. Employment numbers might be rising but they’re not being paralleled by income tax takes. Between 2000 and 2016, productivity in Ireland increased three times more than wages.

“With all due respect, an eight-year-old has no business (being) at an All-Ireland final for €80 or €90. I never went to All-Ireland finals as an eight-year-old.” - Clerkin.

The former Monaghan midfielder later clarified he would pay a king’s ransom for his sons to see their native county play in an All-Ireland final but it’s a remark worth investigating. To be in Croke Park on All-Ireland final is the stuff of dreams for youngsters. Trying telling Rian Moloney, eight last year, or his brother Cillian, aged 10, that they had no business being with their father Darragh as they celebrated Limerick’s success.

Darragh and his wife Michelle would have paid €80 for each of their sons in the Davin Stand. As mentioned in yesterday’s Irish Examiner, a more stratified ticket structure for All-Ireland final day would soften the blow of the ticket increase. Perhaps the Nally Stand could become a designated family zone with reduced admission.

“If you’re going from €15, where are you going to go? Are you going to go to €18 and cause chaos? Are we going to have €2 at the gate and all that sort of a headache, so when you make these changes you have to makes them in fives.” - Horan.

For Horan to explain coinage as a reason for rounding up the -on-the-day stand ticket to €20 from €15 is a stretch. Granted, the Association want to encourage more supporters to buy tickets earlier and part of it is to dissuade them from handing money into ticket offices and vans on the day but it’s an arbitrary reason for adding more onto the bill.

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