Euro ticket misery for Cloughmills supporter
There was joy for some but deep anger for many others as Northern Ireland football fans were told if they had secured prized tickets for the European Championship in France.
While some supporters celebrated, others were left fuming after a Euro 2016 loyalty scheme apparently failed to prioritise those who had attended past games.
The Irish Football Association (IFA) had devised a points system with the aim of ensuring Northern Ireland fans who had attended the most qualifying and friendly matches got first preference when it came to tickets.
But fans who has amassed numerous points were scratching their heads on Tuesday after they missed out on tickets, while others with few or no points secured them.
With 50,000 applications for just under 30,000 total seats for Northern Ireland’s three group games, there were always going to be many disappointed fans.
But there was a sense of injustice among many who felt years of loyal support had not been rewarded.
Cloughmills man Ian Getty was one of the Windsor Park faithful who were left angry and empty handed.
“I am so disaapointed,” said Ian. “I got no tickets at all. I’m not looking for any privilages or wanting to tell any hard luck stories but for 12 years I have been the lead booker for Cloughmills Northern Ireland Supporters Club.
“Every time there is a World Cup or European Qualifying campaign I get 16 tickets.
“So we go to the games everytime in the mini bus with 16 tickets with my name of them.
“I applied for two tickets for the Germany match and got the Dear John letter that it wasn’t happening which I couldn’t believe to be honest. Then when I hear all the other stories about guys who have never been to games getting tickets and folk like myself who go to all the home games ending up empty handed.
“There is no rhyme nor reason to it. There’s a gut Billy O’Flaherty who applied for two tickets. He goes to all the homes games and some way, he got nothing and yet his son also applied for two and got them.
“It does appear that people who went for the higher category of tickets were more successful and unfortunately I applied for Category 3.
“Someone took me to international many years ago and it was a great experience. We started our supporters club when we drew England in 2005 and that was the start of our block booking. The club grew from there and we run the club on the philosophy - let’s give people the opportunity to watch international matches they way someone did with me and if any of us can’t use their ticket, someone within the community gets the ticket and the opportunity to see matches.
“What i don’t undertsand is how could they produce extra tickets for the Poland game? There must have been an error somewhere and if they can provide them for that game, why not the others?”
Although Ian missed out on the first allocation it would appear that there is an exchange portal in March.
“Obviously I will apply through that but it’s not an ideal situation. It’s just so frustrating for the likes of myself. You are going from a structure you thought was secure to something that is an out and out lottery.
“To be honest it has knocked the heart out of me. Northern Ireland have a friendly against Slovenia in March but I’m not sure I will even go to it.
“For something as huge as this to happening to this country and for it to end up a shambles just makes me so angry.
“There are many others in the same boat as myself and I can’t explain just how annoyed I am about the situation.
“I have been contacting anyone I know within football with the hope that there might be a chance of a ticket but there are dozens of others doing the same thing.
“I won’t give up trying though. Although I already have everything booked I’m not sure I want to go and have to try and beg for a ticket outside the ground on match day, it’s all so disappointing.”
Already touts are cashing in on fans’ misery by selling tickets at up to £2,500 a time
It is believed that tickets for Northern Ireland games are being offered online at more than 20 times their face value, while grassroots fans are left in limbo. One ticket for Northern Ireland’s game with Ukraine in Lyon, worth €145 (£112), is being offered for £2,480.