Every time you switch on the wireless, the TV, or read a few paragraphs in the broadsheets these past few weeks there seems to be nothing but doom and gloom vying for your attention. George Lee seems to be the only one happy with his lot and I know quite a few people who are steadfastly refusing to engage any of the above activities, unless it is a music channel, a movie or something light-hearted on TV, or the perusal of the sports pages.
The global credit crunch and its knock-on consequences have seeped deep and hard into most GAA communities at this stage and will continue to do so in 2009. Things are tough and unfortunately it looks like they will get worse before they get better. Hence it was good to hear a little bit of positive news for cash-strapped GAA fans and some first-class thinking this week from the marketing men in Croke Park for the new GAA season.
The GAA launched a reduced price season ticket for the 2009 season which offers terrific value for money to the consumer and will allow purchasers a chance to buy an All-Ireland final ticket next September should their county reach a decider in the code for which they bought the season ticket.
It is a very practical and positive move by head office and one that most genuine GAA fans will appreciate and support. The season ticket will be code and county specific and will cost €75 - that price entitles the supporter to entry to all Allianz GAA National League games excluding the semi-final and final and the first round of the GAA senior championship involving their county in their chosen code. The ticket holder also gets a discounted price for all subsequent games, excluding provincial finals and the All-Ireland final if his/her team is involved in one.
Use of the season tickets will be tracked electronically with holders accessing stadiums through designated turnstiles where a credit card-sized pass will be swiped. Another major positive for GAA supporters is that the tickets will have no photo ID and will therefore be transferable. So if you cannot go to a game, at least you can give it to someone you know who is going and they can get the benefit of your largesse.
Ticketing officer for the GAA, Ronan Murphy, pointed out yesterday that: “The season ticket is great value for money. The fact that it's being piloted in 2009 means that we can manage any problems that arise. It's specifically intended to reward the loyal supporter and we'll guarantee an All-Ireland final ticket for those whose county reaches that stage. The base price covers all league matches and the opening championship fixture and provides a discount of €5 on all subsequent championship matches the county plays apart from finals.”
There is an in-built loyalty programme involved in the ticket in that, should the supporter’s county in the chosen code qualify for the All-Ireland final, then based on a minimum attendance of 60 per cent the supporter is guaranteed an All-Ireland final ticket.
This is the first of many planned ticketing packages to be introduced over the coming years as part of the association’s continuing development of ticketing operations.
Numbers for the new scheme are limited to just 250 per code per county for 2009 for what is initially being trialled as a pilot scheme. The limited number is not due to a desire to reduce those who can avail of the scheme, but is caused by the constraints of the smallest venues that will be involved.
In my humble opinion it is great to see the GAA trying to be proactive, dynamic and start supporting the fans who attend games on a regular basis. It is not before time that this happened and such initiatives are badly needed at both club and county level. To improve on this positive action, any purchaser should be allowed to bring in one child/youngster up to the age of 16. It is vital that the GAA get youngsters attending their games and allowing them in free for the national leagues is one way of attracting them to our sports.
Trying to get supporters out to support any code, be it rugby, soccer or GAA, is not easy and the more of these types of initiative by the top brass of the GAA the better. Finance of the GAA and county boards and clubs is a major challenge facing the organisation. At a national level, with the economic downturn and the re-opening of Lansdowne Road, a big reduction in GAA income is on the cards in the coming years. Gate receipts were down about €4 million in 2008 and 2009 will be a tough year on the income side too. County boards claim the vast majority of the revenue that is generated by the National League games and it is up to each county board to try and maximise the attendances at their own grounds.
€75 for a league season ticket and one championship game is a step in the right direction and the fact that the ticket is transferable will make it very attractive to many punters. So if you are not sure what Santa is bringing you and you don’t want to chance it - get the skates on and click onto GAA.ie and buy yourself the Christmas present that you want.