After a hugely successful weekend, when Croke Park was packed almost to capacity on successive days for the All-Ireland senior football quarter-
finals, the GAA should, says Fitzgerald, have a second look at its prices.
On Sunday, Clare meet Waterford in an eagerly anticipated All-Ireland
semi-final, but in recent years, fanatical Clare supporters have not been travelling in the numbers that followed the side through its glory years.
According to Fitzgerald, this is not because they are losing faith.
“I don’t think it’s just a loss of confidence, but the cost of the tickets in recent times has also become a factor. Is 35 for a single adult ticket this weekend too much? To be honest, in my opinion, it is,” Fitzgerald said.
“I would have thought that 30 would have been more than adequate. I look on the association as belonging to the ordinary individual; it’s their game, their enjoyment, and at grass-roots level, they work very hard, several nights a week. They then put their hands in their pockets on a Friday night, to support a local game, and maybe again on Saturday or Sunday.
“But these big games have now become a major expense. Take a couple going to Croke Park this weekend; two tickets at 35 each, that’s 70. Add in 30 for the petrol, another 40 or 50 for food and so on, and you’re gone well over 100, eating well into the average pay packet. Add a couple of kids to that, and it adds up.
“Now the family ticket, kids at 5 each, that’s very good value, and there’s also a student ticket this weekend, confined to Hill 16.
“But it’s that 35 ticket, that’s a bit much. We should never lose sight of those who got us there, and those people, with their contributions over the years, built that new stadium. I think we should pitch our prices a little lower, to facilitate those people.”
As a game approaches, one headache facing any county secretary is the tickets, but Fitzgerald was not about to complain.
“I’ve been looking forward to being under this pressure since 1998!
“It’s every county’s ambition to win the All-Ireland every year, but of course, you can’t do that, only one champion every year. If you are lucky enough to be in that situation, you have to accept the pressure that comes with it.
“You’re going to have the few days when the hours are long, and hectic, a bit of pressure on, but I can assure you, I’d love to have had that pressure for the last few years.”
Supporter numbers have dropped since those heady days of All-Ireland glory, and after the first-round Munster championship loss to Tipperary this year, Fitzgerald did not hide his disappointment at the ticket uptake in the county.
Even as Clare made their way impressively through the qualifier system, that support did not increase greatly.
Now, support is improving.
“For the Munster final in ‘95, I sold 13,000 tickets, but by the time the All-Ireland came around, we had over 20,000 supporters, and it fluctuated between 18,000 and 20,000 for the next few years,” Fitzgerald said.
“By 2001, however, it had gone back to 14,000, and this year, against Tipperary, I’m afraid it went back even further, by another 50%,” he said.
“I think a lot of people thought they’d get a better deal by waiting, and buying their tickets at Croke Park.”