‘The Prez’, whose PR people have taken to calling him “Criostóir Ó Cuana”, says Croke Park’s number crunchers are giving serious considerations to reducing ticket prices across the board; something this column predicted was inevitable last week.
Leinster Council vice-chairman Martin Skelly blamed blanket live TV coverage for the fact that just over 20,000 spectators attended Sunday’s NFL Division 1 and 2 finals at headquarters, following on from the mere 1,350 who ‘packed’ into Pearse Park for the Division 3 and 4 deciders the previous evening.
“The armchair supporter has a massive choice,” Skelly suggests. Well on Sunday afternoon they’d the option of Blackburn v Wigan or Kerry v Derry as Gaeilge. So what does that tell you?
The vital signs are worrying for the GAA. Attendances were already falling off last year. It’s not just the economy stupid. “We are in difficult times and we have to be fair to our supporters. We have to encourage them to go to our matches,” Cooney said before last weekend’s widely-anticipated woeful turnout. The irony that Saturday’s European rugby semi-final will be the biggest game Croke Park will stage this year surely won’t be lost on the man who opposed relaxing Rule 42 either.
The sporting public are voting with their feet. Even an electronic voting machine would tell you that a fiver off a €30 ticket is no longer enough, especially to sit in a three-quarters-empty Croker. Post-Celtic Tigerdom, people are choosier, saving what disposable income they have for more meaningful occasions. Despite the spectacular fashion with which they kicked off at the same venue in February, there’s no escape the fact that the leagues are a devalued currency (glorified practice matches for the most part) and Allianz must be wondering are they are worth sponsoring any longer.