GAA President John Horan has reiterated his defence of the recent ticket price hike and confirmed that the Central Council vote to sanction it was a “unanimous” one.
Horan made the comments in an address to Seanad Éireann at Government Buildings having been tackled on the issue by Sinn Féin Senator Rose Conway-Walsh.
Following criticism of the GAA’s decision to increase prices, including the raising of All-Ireland senior final tickets from €80 to €90, the Senator addressed Horan.
“I want to ask you as well, was there any dissent at the meeting of the Central Council that decided the ticket increases?” asked Walsh, who claimed the GAA’s explanation for the increases last week was ‘misleading’.
The GAA press releases announcing the increases read: ‘This represents the first major review of the Championship ticket prices since 2011’. But a lot of members and supporters felt this was misleading. This, of course, does not mean that the ticket prices have not increased since 2011, tickets are now 30% more expensive than they were at the height of the Celtic Tiger.
Fellow Senators Paudie Coffey and Aidan Davitt took the opposite view, saying that GAA ticket prices still represent great value for money.
“I was requested to look for some tickets for Steely Dan, nearly the cheapest ticket you could get was €200,” said Davitt. “Now go to Steely Dan or an All-Ireland final — for me, to go to an All-Ireland final would be a privilege and I’d be lucky to get a ticket. Again, an FA Cup final, I remember a couple of years ago a guy wanted £200 for a ticket. I just don’t know where people, some Senators, their appreciation of value for money is.”
After listening to around an hour of senators’ comments on various GAA topics, virtually all of which was positive, Horan gave a 15-minute reply and addressed senator Walsh’s comment about the Central Council vote on ticket prices.
“Just on a point of information, last Thursday, just before the start of our National League, we had sold over 3,000 more season tickets than we had the previous year, in the height of the criticism of our price increases,” said Horan.
“The attendances at our National League games last Sunday marginally increased to 87,000 from the 86,000 that was there before.
“So people may want to criticise us, but the decision that was made at Central Council, and I’m going to answer the question about the vote, it was unanimous because we made the case to the people.
“We were raising the prices to do something with the money for our membership and for the community that exists within this country and we will not apologise for doing good work on the ground. So, in relative terms, the actual attention we got, I looked on it (that) the glass was half-full rather than half-empty.”
Senator Coffey, from Waterford, said that he felt the criticism was unwarranted.
“I don’t have a problem, where people wish to pay they will pay and I can guarantee you that you will see people throng the venues right around this country for big games,” said Coffey. “I was at the National League game between Waterford and Offaly on Sunday and I had my 13-year-old child with me. He goes in for free.
“Every U16 can go to a National League game in this country for free. But we don’t hear that being spoken about enough. I think that is what’s encouraging young people into the GAA. Those of us that can afford it, should pay, because any other organisation will charge, and charge much more, I would say.”
It was the first time a GAA president addressed Seanad Éireann and in his initial speech before senators comments, Horan expressed a desire for closer ties between the GAA, the LGFA and the Camogie Association.
“At Congress next month we will put a motion seeking to add the CEOs of both Associations to the GAA’s Management Committee, alongside our own director general,” said Horan, who raised the possibility of a female GAA president in the future.
“I would hope that any such moves in this direction would also see an increase in women entering administration of the GAA,” he said.
“As things stand, many of our volunteer officers get involved when they finish playing our games and, strictly speaking, that means men who finish playing football and hurling, handball, and rounders, given that ladies football and camogie are both independent entities.
With closer ties and collaboration, I would dearly love to see that slipstream of recruitment widen to include more women, meaning enhanced representation of women on our committees and organising bodies across the wide range of portfolios that need to be filled to power the organisation.
“I hope the next GAA president afforded the privilege extended to me here will be able to describe real and meaningful change in this area in the years ahead.
“And perhaps that ‘he’ will be a ‘she’.”