Full capacities return to stadiums in time for busy November schedule

Portugal and the All Blacks set to play in front of full houses at the Aviva Stadium

Portugal’s visit to Dublin for the World Cup qualifier on November 11th will be welcomed by 51,700 supporters inside the Aviva Stadium. Full capacity is certain following the speed in which 25,749 tickets were sold for the friendly against Qatar on October 12th.

The lifting of Government restrictions on Friday also means that the Portugal game will be the first time Stephen Kenny’s young team get the true international experience two very long years after the Dubliner became Republic of Ireland manager.

“We are delighted to inform supporters that pre-sale for season ticket holders, Club Ireland members and Corporate Box customers will open on Thursday,” the FAI has announced. “Public sales for all remaining tickets will commence on Ticketmaster.ie from Tuesday, October 26th at 10am.”

Ireland under Kenny have yet to win a competitive fixture at the Aviva from six attempts.


“We want to experience that,” said the 49-year-old ahead of the recent 4-0 friendly defeat of Qatar. “We want the supporters to experience that. That’s certainly what we want.”

Easier said than done. Not only does Portugal need a win to top Group A ahead of Serbia, and qualify automatically for Qatar 2022, but Cristiano Ronaldo has scored four goals in the two matches since his headers sunk Ireland in Faro last month.

Two days after Ronaldo graces Lansdowne Road, the New Zealand All Blacks return to these shores seeking to address their only defeat in the stadium back in November 2018.

The Government’s lifting of capacity restrictions, which also includes a return to normal closing time in pubs, begins with Connacht versus Ulster at the Aviva on Saturday in the United Rugby Championship.

Full stadiums for international soccer and rugby comes as an enormous boost to both the FAI and IRFU, whose very life blood is selling at least 50,000 tickets five times over each year.

"If we lose the Six Nations in 2021 you're talking about a €30 million loss," warned Philip Browne, the outgoing IRFU chief executive in May 2020. "If we have to play behind closed doors in the 2021 Six Nations we'd be losing in and around €16 million in terms of gross revenues."

Browne also warned that without unprecedented “Government financial support” it could take a generation for Irish sporting organisations to recover.

Emergency Government funding was forthcoming to the tune of €65 million in 2021, following a November 2020 sport fund providing €85 million for the sector to deal with the impact of lockdowns during the pandemic.

The FAI needed a government and Uefa-funded rescue package worth more than €30 million in January 2020 and continues to carry debts of €65 million but, currently, the next competitive home games after Portugal is not until the Nations League in June 2022.

The Aviva has a jam-packed November schedule with the ground staff under the pump as soon as Japan play Andy Farrell’s Ireland on November 6th, with Argentina rounding out the rugby fixtures seven days before the FAI Cup final on November 28th.

The cup semi-finals this Friday night – Bohemians host Waterford at Dalymount Park and holders Dundalk face St Patrick’s Athletic at Richmond Park – could be the first full houses in Irish sport since February 2020.

Bohs expect a 4,000 sell-out with visiting Waterford fans able to purchase tickets for the Des Kelly stand.

The Republic of Ireland’s opening women’s World Cup qualifier against Sweden on Thursday in Tallaght Stadium falls 24 hours outside the lifting of restrictions so only 4,000 tickets, half the capacity, were put on sale despite a huge demand.

Supporters attending outdoor matches will not need to show proof of vaccination or a negative test for Covid-19.

“Covid-19 passes and fixed capacity limits will not apply for outdoor events,” the Government confirmed. “However, sectors should ensure appropriate protective measures are in place.”

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent