Fans’ ticket wait goes to injury time

Thousands of soccer fans travelling on expensive Euro 2012 packages will not be given match tickets until their planes are physically in the air over fears they could be stolen or sold on last-minute black markets.

The call has been made by a number of reputable travel agents amid a growing scramble for tickets to Ireland’s biggest games in a generation.

Despite some fans forking out as much as €3,000 for 10-day packages — which include match tickets for every game, hotel accommodation, flights, and internal travel — months in advance, firms such as Dawson Travel are holding back on handing over the tickets until the last possible minute.

This means hundreds of fans set to fly out over the coming days will have to wait until they have left the runway before being handed match tickets.

The decision is causing some panicked supporters stress levels on a par with those playing in the tournament itself.

However, an FAI spokesman said that while the measure is not the governing body’s official policy, the sheer demand for tickets and the risk of either touts or thieves obtaining the official passes means the security steps are necessary.

“The advice we are giving is to treat these tickets as if they are currency,” the spokesman said. “There’s no official policy from us to travel agents to ensure the tickets get to who they should, but we urge any travel agent to do it in the safest way possible.

“Uefa are posting them out [for fans who have both from the sports body directly], so we can understand why some agents are only giving them out on the planes.”

The likelihood of battalions of Trap’s Army putting aside their chance to see the Boys in Green do battle against Europe’s finest by selling their tickets is slim, considering our reputation as being among the best fans in the world.

The anti-black market attitude is even more unusual considering the widespread view this is exactly where Irish fans have been sourcing tickets since Euro ’88.

However, given the economic crisis and reports that some tickets are changing hands for hundreds of euro more than their face value, officials are choosing to play it safe. This interest was highlighted yesterday by the Dublin Airport Authority, which said more than 130 flights — including 46 extra charters — are set to fly from the capital to Poland by Jun 20, taking more than 20,000 fans with them.

They include 23 flights jetting off today and tomorrow, 55 between Sunday and Thursday, and 34 more before Ireland’s final group game against Italy on Monday week. A further 15 flights and four extra charters are scheduled for Jun 19-20 for fans who feel Ireland will be preparing for a mouth-watering quarter-final showdown, potentially against England or France.

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