Thursday, January 11, 2007

Tickets for the Rugby - Attention, Suckers!

Shaggy - the face of modern IrelandAnybody who is a student of the dark arts of news management – commonly known as “spinning” – could do a lot worse than to visit the IRFU’s website, where the Union’s comments about this morning’s sale of tickets for the Irish home matches in the upcoming Six Nations Championship are textbook in their deviousness.

The tickets, unsurprisingly, in our hype-addled and value-deficient Celtic Tiger days, sold like hot cakes. They could only be bought by supporters’ club members, and were sold on a first-come, first-served basis this morning. The IRFU puffs out its chest at the thought of this morning’s stampede, and comes out with the following:

“The demand for tickets for these historic games has been unprecedented; such is the level of support for the Ireland Rugby Team.”

You can imagine the froggy eyes popping and the great bellies distending with pride at the thought of so many backs straightening to the sound of Ireland’s Call, can’t you?

Well think again, friends, because there has been dirty work at the crossroads.

The Irish Rugby Supporters’ Club was set up in 2005 to give those mythical, put-upon creatures, the “real fans,” first dibs at the good stuff. And Ireland versus France in Croke Park is clearly good stuff.

The Irish Rugby Supporters’ Club was modelled on the exemplary Munster Rugby Supporters’ Club, but with one crucial difference: the Munstermen limit the membership of the Munster Supporters’ Club, whereas the membership of the Irish Rugby Supporters’ Club is come one, come all, step right up, all are welcome.

Why is this? Well, it’s all about bums on seats, isn’t it?

An Spailpín Fánach sometimes forgets to push his soup away while eating it, and as such is probably persona non grata in the IRFU’s hallowed halls. But your faithful correspondent does know this much: the IRFU were advertising the Supporters’ Club as a way to get tickets to this historic Croke Park event before Christmas because they knew they would get sign-ups in their thousands, and so they did. It all proved too much for the gullible Celtic Tiger Cubs, every synapse quivering at the thought of Ireland and Irish Pride and a Great Day for the Nation and thank God “we’ve” got Croke Park off those backwoodsmen in the GAA.

So it seems that the IRFU saw this great wobbling mass of soft flesh that is the Irish party market – because the Ireland v France game is about so much more than just rugger, doncha know – and sank their fangs in good and deep. People came in their droves to sign up at fifty lids a pop and now they’re left with one hand as long as the other, with nobody for company except those poor eejits who suffered through the Brian Ashton era and the Gerry Murphy era and Rob Saunders and every other form of muck, who are now out in the cold as well, the bandwagon having steamrolled them into the ground.

And when they ring Des or Joe or Marian, what will they be told, these actual rugby fans? Why, they’ll be told about Ireland and Irish Pride and a Great Day for the Nation and thank God “we’ve” got Croke Park off those backwoodsmen in the GAA. And sure fellas, there isn’t room for everybody, you know.

So what you have on one hand are those poor saps whose simple brains are addled listening to well intentioned but hopelessly naïve commentators bigging up rugby-in-Croke-Park shelling out fifty lids a soul to enter a raffle, and good hearted innocents in the GAA who believed all that good neighbour palaver out of the IRFU and the FAI both being sold a combination elixir of snake-oil and hair-restorer while the IRFU makes another soft few million for themselves, offering greater access to tickets that isn’t so accessible after all.

And what off the real fans, about whom we hear so much? Watching on TV, as usual. May God forgive the IRFU. Nobody else will by the time the penny finally drops.

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