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Munster hurling fans take significant ticket price rise in their stride

The Munster Council made a calculation that involved very little risk as the championship is in the grip of a boom

On the same day that Diageo announced an increase in the price of a pint, for the third time in 18 months, an increase in ticket prices for the Munster hurling championship entered the public domain too.

In another world, the coincidence would have pleased Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair’s former press secretary; bad news must always be released on days when other bad news is dominating the news cycle.

The price of drink is one of those touchstone topics that will generate a vox pop on the Six One News. The scale of the price hike is immaterial to the story. Just like in a million pub conversations, outrage brings people together.

Ticket prices for sports events, though, elicits a different spectrum of responses. Market sentiment is more volatile and malleable. How badly do you want to be there? Is it really worth it? Who decides that? You. Repeat the question; how badly do you want to be there?


If there was uproar about the increase in prices for the Munster championship it didn’t make the Six One News. Stand tickets for this season will cost €30, which is a €5 jump on last year, and still €10 cheaper than the best seats in Thomond Park for Munster’s URC match against Cardiff on Saturday night. In that apples/oranges comparison value for money is a matter of taste, perhaps. Or, blindingly obvious.

The Munster Council made a calculation that involved very little risk. The Munster hurling championship is in the grip of a boom. Last year’s matches generated a total attendance of over 310,000, which represented an increase of more than 48,000 on the year before and comfortably broke the previous attendance record set in 2019.

Because of the small capacities in Cusack Park and Walsh Park tickets went on general sale for just seven of the 10 Munster championship matches, but by the weekend only terrace tickets were left for Cork’s two home games against Limerick and Clare, for example. Limerick’s visit to Clare on the opening weekend will be a sell-out and so will Cork’s visit to Waterford.

As soon as tickets went on sale, the issue wasn’t about price it was about availability. Any question that the Munster Council had overplayed their hand was torpedoed instantly.

In blunt, commercial terms, the market dictates the price. The IRFU has learned this, painfully at times. After the Irish rugby team resumed residence in the rebuilt Lansdowne Road, and in the middle of the catastrophic recession caused by the banking crisis, the IRFU tried to bundle their tickets for the 2010 November internationals, with no option to buy them separately. The four-game package was pitched at €340, a ludicrous price that was never going to fly.

The blowback was so ferocious that the IRFU was forced to climb down. In the scribbled redraft, the New Zealand game was paired with Argentina and that package was pitched at €190; the games against South Africa and Samoa were paired at €150. The public still balked.

South Africa, who were reigning world champions, were the first team to play Ireland in the reopened Aviva Stadium in November 2010 and a pitiful crowd of just over 35,000 showed up. At those prices, not enough people really wanted to be there. For that series of Test matches the IRFU suffered a €4m deficit on anticipated ticket revenue.

For every sports body the capacity to read the market is essential. The next time the IRFU crossed a Rubicon on ticket pricing they were on much firmer ground.

For New Zealand’s visit in the autumn of 2018, category 1 and category 2 tickets were both pitched at over €100 for the first time. By then the economy had recovered, Ireland had won a Grand Slam in the spring, and were better placed than ever to beat the All-Blacks at home for the first time. The tickets flew.

Ireland’s home games in the following Six Nations were against England and France which emboldened the IRFU to double-down on breaking the €100 barrier again for category 1 and category 2 tickets. Ireland were the number one team in the world. They had beaten the All-Blacks again. Market sentiment was in their favour.

Now? You don’t hear any talk about how expensive tickets are for Ireland’s home games. The issue, instead, is availability and the suggestion that grass roots fans are being squeezed out. The IRFU may have undeclared reservations about where the tickets land, but Lansdowne Road is full.

The relationship between professional sports and their fans/customers/clients is unavoidably queered by money and endemic greed. In the Premier League this season, for example, 17 of the 20 clubs increased their ticket prices.

Among Tottenham fans there was uproar last week at the club’s decision to increase season ticket prices by 6% next season – when Spurs’ season tickets were already the second most expensive in the league. The club has also decided to remove concessions for season ticket holders aged 65 or over from the beginning of the 2025/26 season.

Spurs can make these cold commercial decisions in the knowledge that they have a long waiting list for season tickets among their fans/customers/clients. In that sense, it is a captive market.

For the GAA, ticket pricing is a far more delicate balancing act. In professional football, in the biggest leagues, punters expect to pay more at the turnstile because the players are being paid, in many cases, grotesque amounts of money. Fans seem resigned to their ticket money being flushed into that bottomless pit.

With the GAA, there is greater pressure to spend their income transparently and for the greater good. The greatest source of that money, at every level of the organisation, is ticket sales. If that fell off a cliff, if market sentiment turned against them, if they pitched the prices at the wrong level, the GAA would have no way of filling that hole.

In January, the possibility of raising the price of All-Ireland final tickets to €100 was discussed by the GAA and parked for now; they must have considered the optics.

Maybe the extra fiver will tip you over the edge and you’ll give up on the Munster championship. But, truthfully, you’d be better off giving up the drink.