The GAA announced today – at last – that sales have opened for season tickets for next year. The GAA’s announcement is here.
It’s telling, I reckon, that the statement linked above doesn’t actually lead with news about the season ticket at all but instead focuses on ticket prices for next year’s National League campaign, including prices for various packages of games that are on offer. It’s as if the GAA now views the season ticket as an afterthought. Or, maybe, as a bit of an annoyance.
If so, its pricing for 2024 makes sense. Headline prices for both the standard ticket and the Club Plus variant (what was the Cáirde Mhaigheo ticket) remain at €150 and €250 respectively but neither ticket now includes the first Championship match and so this change constitutes a significant price hike in real terms.
Stripping out the first Championship match is just the latest move in what has been a progressive hollowing out of the features that used to be included in the season ticket. This once encompassed ongoing discounts for all Championship games (bar the final), as well as free access to the club finals and National League finals. For Cáirde Mhaigheo members there were jackets and, in both 2012 and 2013, access to a second All-Ireland final ticket.
The only perk left in the season ticket, to be honest, aside from having all your League tickets without having to buy them individually, is the guaranteed access it provides to an All-Ireland final ticket if your county manages to make it that far. The last time that feature was of relevance for us, though, was back in 2017 because 2020 was the Covid final (so, unless you were in the media or in the back of a van, you didn’t get in) and the season ticket wasn’t back in operation in 2021 either.
The more you think about it, it seems apparent that the way in which the season ticket has been progressively downgraded is consistent with the GAA’s approach to what it still rather quaintly refers to as its ‘patrons’.
While the GAA may rightfully be lauded for the way in which it has promoted the interests of club players in recent years, the same isn’t true for its approach to its paying punters. As a supporter, it certainly feels as if the GAA is taking us very much for granted these days.
Ticketing for matches is a clear case in point. The way this is now handled is nothing short of a disgrace, with the whole thing turned over to US ticketing giant Ticketmaster and where tickets for big games are routinely released in batches, with the clear aim of offloading all the rubbish ones first.
At a more basic level, the maddening way in which the GAA often won’t even inform the paying public when matches are on tells you much about where their priorities lie. We had this all summer long, making advance planning impossible from one weekend to the next. In addition, it’s only been in the last few days that next year’s National League confirmed fixtures have finally been published.
As the GAA talks ever more like a corporate entity, such a cavalier approach to those who pay good money to attend its matches raises justifiable questions about its ‘product’. It’s an offering which, when you put it under the microscope, has plenty of shortcomings.
The match-day experience at Croke Park hasn’t moved on a jot in close to twenty years – in fact it’s got even worse: you can’t buy a bloody ice-cream in the place nowadays – while at other venues its shortcomings are painfully evident. The jacks in MacHale Park at half-time, anyone?
This is to say nothing, of course, about the spectacle that is Gaelic football nowadays, which is bordering on unwatchable. That’s a separate issue, of course, though not a totally unrelated one.
It’s into this environment that the GAA has opened sales for next year’s season tickets. The Mayo ones will probably still be fully subscribed (it’s only ourselves and Dublin that are in this category) but many are likely to be holding their proverbial noses as they go through the renewal process this year.