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ireland's fall IRFU defend ticket prices with 10,000 empty seats expected for Japan game

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Pádraig Power, Commercial and Marketing Manager of the IRFU, believes they have a 'great range of value' for the November internationals. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Pádraig Power, Commercial and Marketing Manager of the IRFU, believes they have a 'great range of value' for the November internationals. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Pádraig Power, Commercial and Marketing Manager of the IRFU, believes they have a 'great range of value' for the November internationals. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

The IRFU has defended its ticket prices for the November internationals, despite today’s opening encounter against Japan at the Aviva Stadium highly unlikely to sell out.

Although tickets are currently still on sale, a crowd of approximately 40,000 is expected for what will be Ireland captain Johnny Sexton’s 100th cap, which is some way short of the 51,700 capacity that is set to be in attendance for next week’s soccer qualifier between Ireland and Portugal.

Many supporters have felt priced out of attending, with some shelling out up to €125 for a ticket to next weekend’s sold-out clash with New Zealand.

The union is adamant that its prices are ‘spot on’, with their hope being that over the course of this month’s three games against Japan, New Zealand and Argentina, 135,000 fans will come through the turnstiles. Tickets for today’s game start at €65.

Should that figure come to pass, the IRFU stands to make €10m from ticket sales, which would go some way towards the €45m losses it suffered throughout the pandemic.

In an exclusive interview with the Irish Independent, the IRFU’s director of commercial & marketing Pádraig Power stood firmly by the pricing strategy, particularly when asked directly if the union was worried about the prospect of alienating the average supporter, who simply cannot afford to attend games.

“No, I don’t think so,” Power said.

“I mean, there were tickets available for New Zealand from €52.50 – restricted view Cat 4 – up to Cat 1 for €125.

“We think it’s a great range of value.

“The top price in France for the All Blacks is €165 and that’s not even premium level. We think we sit on the right number.”

“We actually had two running budgets – one was for one-metre social distancing and one was for two-metre social distancing as things were going through the pandemic.

“At two metres, we would have had less than 8,000 people in the stadium and at one metre, 18,000.

“So, we are more than double ahead where we thought we would be a little while back. We are thrilled.

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“Normally speaking, we would be going on public sale with November tickets on the 15th of June.

“So, in a normal year we would have a four-month-plus runway into the November matches and people would have time to choose.

“This year, with Covid, we had a 15-day run-in from the 22nd of October when Government gave us the green light to be able to go from 75pc to 100pc.

“So, in the circumstances in that kind of a window, we are absolutely delighted, we are thrilled. To go from 3,000 people in the stadium in July to 40,000, from our point of view is a magnificent result.”

Expanding further on how the IRFU came up with the ticket prices, Power explained:

“We benchmark domestically with things like soccer, GAA, concerts, theatre and entertainment events. It’s certainly not all apples and apples, but you can certainly get a bit of a steer.”

Power also pointed to rival Six Nations ticket prices and how, generally speaking, England and France are the most expensive, while insisting that the IRFU has “five or six occasions a year to try and maximise our revenue.”

Asked if he was surprised that a full house wouldn’t be in attendance today, Power added: “I’m not at all surprised, to be honest. From our starting point to get to where we are at, it’s a great result.

“In truth, the challenge has been the 15 days runway. And it’s probably fair to say, across Europe, particularly in rugby across the British Isles and Ireland, we are still in Covid and people are slowly gradually coming out of things.

“I think it’s only natural that there would be a slight hesitancy. So I’m not disappointed, I think it is a great result.”

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