When Irish eyes are wincing
The East Terrace
August 20, 2010
"That'll be €340 please Mr Kidney" © Getty Images
The Irish Rugby Football Union have shocked the rugby world by announcing a ten-year plan in which they have outlined their idea to dramatically change the conditions of acquiring international tickets for their new Aviva Stadium.
With initial ticket prices for the Six Nations and major Autumn matches being set at a shocking minimum of 100 Euros each, the IRFU are looking into the possibility of progressing from monetary exchanges to actual 'arms and legs' by 2020.
"People often say when things cost a lot that they feel like they have paid an 'arm and a leg'," said IRFU spokesperson Conor Marsh. "We thought that perhaps, in light of the fact that people will feel like they are actually paying an arm and a leg for tickets to Irish rugby matches, we may as well go the whole hog and offer them the option to donate their actual limbs. The IRFU feel that with medical research advancing year by year, we could then go on and sell these limbs on to medical research institutions and increase funding for the Irish game and our wonderful Aviva Stadium. It's win - win for all."
In spite of the depressing world economic climate, which has hit Ireland hard, the IRFU have shocked many in the Irish game by announcing the three figure ticket prices for two of the 2010 autumn games(plus a €90 minimum for the Pumas game) as well as the England and France 2011 Six Nation clashes.
In particular, the prices cause huge problems for Irish Clubs who have to pay for their allocations of tickets upfront and struggle to do so. Even if a club can find the money to buy tickets in bulk, they cannot always be assured to sell all of them off (matches, however, will still be classed as a sell out, regardless of any potential empty seats that result from the club's inability to sell their lot, as long as the IRFU have sold them on). Further bad feeling exists about the ticket prices as the new stadium, sponsored by Aviva, was partly funded by €191m of public money.
Speaking from the impressive media facilities at the Aviva Stadium, Marsh emphasised the positives surrounding the unexpectedly high ticket prices. "The new Aviva Stadium - did we mention that it was sponsored by Aviva? Anyway, the new Aviva Stadium is one of the two greatest stadiums in Dublin. We feel utterly confident that anyone who attends a match here at the Aviva Stadium will be most impressed by the Aviva-sponsored facilities on offer. With the stunning new pitch, comfortable seats, giant screens, great viewpoints and wonderful corporate facilities, we feel that you may well come away from the Aviva matchday experience feeling like you've robbed us! And if you get hungry, just buy a burger for six or seven euros. "
The Aviva Stadium in Dublin was built to replace the world famous Lansdowne Road, which at the time was the oldest international stadium in world rugby (and looked much older than Rome's Coliseum). Demolition of the landmark occurred in 2007 and Ireland based themselves at Dublin's Croke Park, home of the Gaelic Athletic Association, during recent seasons.
The IRFU began to realise that they could possibly get away with extortionate ticket prices during this temporary move when, unlike most unions in the Six Nations, they used a blanket ticket price for all seats in the stadium, regardless of quality of view or distance from the playing field. Despite the fact supporters would be paying €90 for either a cramped pitch side ticket (made worse by the increased distance from the playing field due to the difference in pitch size used in Gaelic games) or the same price for a seat up in the gods, the IRFU managed to sell out most of their major matches (often cleverly twinning tickets to smaller matches with tickets packages to larger more attractive fixtures). The Croke Park experience seems to have emboldened those at the union to take ticket payment to the next level.
"We are confident that by the 2021 World Cup, provided Ireland maintain a similar playing standard at both club and international level, we will have progressed from charging money to actually requesting the very blood and limbs of our supporters."
"Look," said Marsh, "We realise these are difficult economic times: that Ireland's economic bubble has dramatically burst; that the Celtic Tiger has long since fled with its tail between its legs and that unemployment is rife and immigration is at its highest for years. Even here in the Stadium called Aviva we know all these things. So for now we have limited the minimum price to 100 Euros a ticket. As I've said, a bargain. However, we want to make sure that with our new Aviva Stadium, and its capacity of only 50,000, that in the future only the most loyal and dedicated supporters get tickets to the stadium sponsored by Aviva. How else better to do this than by offering tickets to those who really give a piece of themselves, quite literally, to Irish rugby?
"Did we mention that the new stadium is called Aviva? Can you let your readers know that it's now called Aviva? We really want to stress that."
Other options, however, have been mooted by the IRFU as an alternative to paying with limbs. The most favoured option at present is the selling to the IRFU the soul of a ticket bearer's firstborn child in exchange for pitch side seats.
The East Terrace (www.theeastterrace.com) offers an offside view of life in the rugby world
"Like the Treaty of Versailles, despite all the promises, the new Participation Agreement is certainly not the final solution." John Taylor writes
"We know where we are going and we know where we want to get but how long that will take is anybody's guess." David Humphreys on his plans for Gloucester
Jim Mallinder and Justin Burnell were sat on the same top table, but in different circumstances. Tom Hamilton reports on the Aviva Premiership season launch
Tom Hamilton reports back from the launch of the Guinness PRO12 where there is a renewed sense of optimism with all of the off-field changes to the league