MICHAEL MOYNIHAN: Why do we still bother with paper tickets?

On the basis that citing a certain name here will probably send you into the arms of the business section, or the TV listings, I’ll spare everyone the trauma.

It’s striking, though, to look at how tickets have been the vehicle of misfortune for yet another high-ranking Irish sporting official. There’s quite a deal of huffing and puffing about the brave new world of 21st century sport, and a few Irish sporting administrators must be wishing e-ticketing had come into effect many years ago.

Unsurprisingly given the gold standard in ticketing messes, the FAI’s unorthodox dealings with a London-based ticket agent in the early 90s who apparently travelled under different names — the last trait what you’d want in someone you’re entrusting with a lot of money. The second-last trait is a nickname like ‘George the Greek’, but this was the man the FAI deal with. If your recall is good then you’ll remember that the fall-out from this particular mess eventually led to the departure of several high-ranking FAI officers, including then-honorary treasurer Joe Delaney, whose son John is now FAI chief executive.

In what a desperate novelist might call a delicious irony, Delaney Jr’s name is being bandied about as a replacement to head the Olympic Council of Ireland. If a link between the ticket scandal of 20 years ago and the current imbroglio . . . well, as Rory McIlroy may or may not have tweeted, that’s karma.

Other organisations have had an unhappy time with a former Gaelic football legend used to refer to as ‘pieces of cardboard’.

Five years ago the IRFU tried to restructure ticket prices for the autumn internationals, linking the games together as a package, only for attendances to fall dramatically as spectators voted with their feet: Going back even further, to 2005, there were the tickets for the All-Ireland senior hurling final that didn’t make it to their recipients but got lost in the post. Enough for bare spaces to be visible in Croke Park on a day that the stadium is traditionally packed to the rafters.

That’s why the point made in jest above is actually quite serious. Given the ubiquity of the mobile phone, or the smartphone, why are we even bothering still with paper tickets? You can get to another continent by plane courtesy of codes or numbers sent to the device in your pocket, but you still need an Admit One in paper format for a sports event?

It might put an end to the chaps sidling up to you before games asking if you’re buying or selling a ticket. Enjoyable knockabout fun though that might be, by moving into the modern age and using virtual tickets as airlines do, then quite a lot of problems might be averted.

You’d be cutting out the middlemen, such as those organisations which charge the irritating handling fee for the pleasure of charging your account for taking money out of it (no, not banks, but I hear where you’re coming from). It’d make the experience more streamlined for the supporter, who is also, in this case, the consumer of a product.

If nothing else, it’d help the administrators. Who else is thinking of them at this difficult time?

Pulling power of New York writer Dan Barry

The news of human trafficking in Meath reminded me of a chat with New York Times writer Dan Barry about his book on a related topic, The Boys In the Bunkhouse, which you will see here soon.

Like all the best people, Dan also writes about sport - one of his books, Bottom of the 33rd is a classic of American sportswriting. Like the very best people, he’s also written about hurling.

How? Well, his boss suggested a year in the sports department ...

“I was into that,” says Barry. “I went up to Belmont and covered the Triple Crown, but I didn’t even see the race. I was hanging around the back stretch with old jockeys. “I covered a lot of baseball, and wrote about boxing. It was a good change. But now the year’s done I’ll go back to my This Land column - particularly in the election year.”

How did he end up covering a hurling game? “My mother was from Galway - Shanaglish, just outside Gort - and we go back pretty regularly, and we stay in Kinvara. We hadn’t been back for a few years and then, the last time, I was trying to extend my stay with a few stories, so I wrote one piece about Thoor Ballylee, Yeats’s tower, and how it had recovered after flooding. Of course, a couple of months after I wrote that it flooded again.”

The other story Barry wrote was the hurling piece, based around a match between Connemara and Kinvara (bit.ly/barryhurl).

“I was pretty confident most Americans didn’t know much about hurling, but that if I explained it properly they’d understand how singular and wonderful a sport it is, and the great, complicated, intriguing history behind it.

“So I watched a pretty low-level game, but I’m aware of the history of the area. There’s ghosts there, you know what I mean?”

Cantwell the star of RTÉ’s Olympic team

Now that the Olympics is over, a word about the coverage. It’s been disappointing to say the least to see the spirit of Pravda suffuse the BBC, which used to be the standard bearer in terms of quality and balance. The hundreds of staff from across the water who are even further across the (other) water have served up a lot of hours that would make you want to fan your armpits. Quite a few valid and obvious questions simply weren’t asked, while we’ll just agree to forget about John Inverdale.

In Irish coverage, kudos to RTÉ for making a strong effort with gender balance — for Tom Barr’s great run there were four studio guests, three of them women.

Sexist stupidity has been an unfortunate trope at these games, and credit to the State broadcaster for doing its best here.

One of the four women referred to above, by the way, was the big winner in home-grown coverage. Joanne Cantwell’s professionalism and grasp of her brief has been a highlight of RTÉ’s coverage: Anchoring hours of live transmission of esoteric sports is one of these things that looks easy until you realise the work that goes into it.

Stacy Schiff binge anyone? I’m in...

A few quality deliveries dropped through the letterbox recently, including John McPhee’s Uncommon Carriers (could a man write an Irish version of that, I wonder?).

However, when those are read it’ll have to be a Stacy Schiff binge. I knew she’d written The Witches, but I’d missed her name on the Vera Nabokov biography: I’m in.

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