Die-hard NI fans fear missing out on Switzerland tickets over scheme’s quirks

Demand from fans for tickets to the second-leg match against Switzerland in St Jakobs stadium, Basel on November 12 is expected to far outstrip supply
Demand from fans for tickets to the second-leg match against Switzerland in St Jakobs stadium, Basel on November 12 is expected to far outstrip supply

The IFA has said it is working closely with supporters’ clubs to ensure die-hard fans don’t lose out on tickets to the forthcoming World Cup play-offs against Switzerland.

Demand for tickets to the away leg of the Switzerland tie is expected to far outstrip demand.

Some fans have expressed concern about the working of a ‘loyalty points’ scheme introduced by the Irish Football Association (IFA) specifically to ensure the most dedicated fans don’t lose out.

The loyalty scheme works by awarding points for attendance at Northern Ireland matches, with extra points given for those attending games away from home. Those with the most points will jump to the front of the queue when the tickets go on sale, which is expected to happen on Monday.

Die-hard fans who haven’t missed a match but who have purchased tickets for others, including family members, children or more occasional fans, are worried that their own points total is being brought down. The IFA work out a points total for each supporter on an ‘account’ when tickets are booked in this way by calculating a combined points total for the account and then awarding an average to each fan.

Supporters such as Alan Gault, a 39-year old fan from Londonderry, said he is worried he might be “penalised for bringing my five-year-old daughter to the matches”.

“I can’t really be expected to bring her out of school and fly her to somewhere like Norway,” he said. “But the fact that I’ve got her on my account means she’s bringing my points average down. I shouldn’t be penalised for bringing my daughter to games.”

Another fan worried about losing out is Barry Hetherington, who said he has been going to Northern Ireland matches since he was a schoolboy.

“There’s myself, my dad and my brother on the same account,” he said. “The average probably won’t be enough but I should have enough points if they did it on an individual basis.”

An IFA spokesperson said it “is working closely with the Amalgamation of Official Northern Ireland Supporters’ Clubs (AONISC) to ensure that those fans who attended the most matches over the campaign are at the top of the queue when tickets go on sale for the away play-off game next week.”

The News Letter understands that a solution the IFA is exploring is the sending out of expression of interest forms to all ‘lead campaign card bookers’, and then examining each application on an individual basis.