COLLISION COURSE Many fans who had reserved seats in the stand in McHale Park were forced to sit elsewhere when supporters refused to move from allocated seats. Our picture shows a view of the parade from the stand on Saturday evening.Pic Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
The issue of ticketing for big GAA games needs to be ‘fully investigated’ according to Connacht GAA Secretary John Prenty.
Mr Prenty was speaking after last Saturday night’s Connacht Senior Football Championship clash between Mayo and Galway in MacHale Park in Castlebar where there were some heated exchanges over confusion for the allocation of seating.
A number of Cairde Mhaigheo season ticket holders sat in seats which were reserved for members of GAA clubs in Galway and Mayo, believing the seats to be unreserved. Some moved when asked and others did not.
Among the supporters asked to move was Mayo fan Michael Maye who took up what he thought were unreserved seats with his group of four at 6pm.
“It was a complete fiasco. At 6.45pm two men landed and I was in one of their seats,” Mr Maye told The Mayo News last night. “An argument ensued but they were entitled to their seats so we had to get up. We eventually got tickets right down at the end near the Albany goal before the throw-in.
“A few heated exchanges started in the stand and I thought a fight would break out. Some people refused point blank to move. It was complete mayhem. There was a shortage of stewards and they got awful abuse, the poor fellas. It was not their fault but the whole thing was handled so badly. It was poor communication,” added Mr Maye, from Swinford who is also a member of Mayo supporters group ‘Club 51’.
Connacht Council Secretary John Prenty said the decision was taken to allocate two central sections of the stand to clubs in the competing counties, together with the centre section which is typically reserved for special guests.
“Some season ticket holders ended up in there and a number of them dug their heels in when they were asked to move,” Mr Prenty told The Mayo News last night.
“The stewards, who are all volunteers, were in an unenviable position and the gardaí had to be called in. Some people still would not move and rather than cause a riot, we had to decide to leave them there and try to allocate people from those seats elsewhere.”
Mr Prenty said the issue could have been resolved ‘if people followed the directions from stewards’.
“A lot of club people could not sit in their seats. If you saw a picture of the stand there was still plenty of blue seats down towards the Albany End. The stand wasn’t full so there was no question of season ticket holders and Cairde Mhaigheo holders being asked to leave the stand,” he added. Mr Prenty said that it is a ‘balancing act’ looking after clubs and season ticket holders.
“Season ticket holders are very good supporters and go to a lot of the games, but club people have to be accommodated too. People that are involved with under 10s or 12s team in the club deserve to be allocated good seats too,” he said.
He said it would be ‘logistically difficult’ to allocate seating for the full stand as it would ‘require ten times the amount of stewards’ but added that possibility will be explored and that there is a need for a full review of the situation.
“The whole operation of tickets is something we need to fully investigate. Mayo have a great support and have 4,000 season ticket holders. That number has become a monster and we have to look at how we manage that.
“The season ticket cannot guarantee a stand seat at all venues in the country, it just guarantees access to games, up to and including an All-Ireland Final if you’re county is in it. We have to be mindful to accommodate clubs as well so that’s the balancing act.”