FAI chief John Delaney says that lessons have been learned from the collapse of the Vantage Club ticket scheme just over a decade ago and described the latest edition of their Club Ireland package, which has been launched at the Aviva Stadium, as “the best value premium level scheme in Irish sport”.
In 2008, amid much fanfare and bullish predictions of money-spinning success, the FAI went to the market with a premium ticket scheme in which ten-year tickets were priced from €12,000 to €32,000.
But the plan back-fired so badly that it was later abandoned, and the price range for 2019 version certainly offers a sobering contrast, with premium level tickets ranging from €2,000 for three years to €5,000 for ten.
“I think in terms of the Vantage Club it's important to say that mistakes were made ten years ago,” said the FAI CEO.
“The pricing was based on solid advice from major international bodies at the time. The pricing was wrong, obviously, because the recession began to bite.
And I think, to be very clear, lessons have been learned and this time the pricing is realistic and we think it's the best value in Irish sport.
“The pricing has been done after a lot of consultation with the fan base and the corporate base. We have sixteen and a half thousand season ticket sales done but this is obviously a different sales model.
“It's individual tickets for €5,000 for ten years, €3,000 for five years and €2,000 for three years.
“You're guaranteed a minimum of five international matches a season, pre- and post-match entertainment with legends of the Irish games, potential to get tickets to Ireland away games, admission to all of the women's national team matches and, of course, the FAI Senior Cup Final.
“There'll be an annual Q&A with the Irish management team as well and pre-sale access to Aviva Stadium concerts and international club matches.”
Delaney said that the initial target is to sell just short of 4,000 seats and raise €12 million which would “play a major part in reducing the (Aviva Stadium) debt” currently standing at €28 million and which the FAI want to be in a position to clear by the end of 2020.
Responding to media questions, the FAI boss denied that pressure has ever been exerted on clubs to buy tickets.
"The FAI works with the clubs and, along the way, some of the clubs and the leagues would have bought tickets,” he said. “But there wasn't pressure exerted, they bought them.”
And, in contrast to 2008 when the FAI worked with ISG as agents for the Vantage Club, this time there is no third-party involvement.
“We used our own team,” he said.
We spoke to sponsors, corporate Ireland and our fans. So we did it directly and I think it's a good price. It's good value.
Delaney also revealed at the Club Ireland announcement that the FAI plan to apply to host a women's Champions League Final at the Aviva Stadum while, in an upbeat update on the feasibility study about hosting games at the 2030 World Cup, which the association is currently undertaking with Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England, he said: “We had a positive meeting in Rome recently. It's not a bid yet but it's certainly heading in the right direction.”