League of Ireland fans have expressed their frustration over increased ticket prices for Shamrock Rovers home games that have been deemed 'category A'.
Online tickets for the club's matches at Tallaght Stadium usually cost €17 for adults.
However, that's increased to €20 for games against Bohemians, Shelbourne, St Patrick’s Athletic and Dundalk in the upcoming 2022 season.
The club has said it faces "increased matchday costs" for the category A games and therefore has to increase prices.
Darren Cleary - a League of Ireland fan and Bauer Media's managing editor of digital audio - told Lunchtime Live that the announcement has come as fans look forward to getting back to matches after two years of disruption.
He said: “What you’ll have in essence is that the teams that will bring the biggest support to the grounds will have to pay a premium to get in them.
“Most people in Ireland are being squeezed [at the moment], but supporters are the most important stakeholders [for football] and they will now have to pay a premium to visit the Tallaght Stadium.”
He said this all comes as the League of Ireland and many Irish clubs find themselves in a precarious position financially, with several clubs having gone bankrupt in recent years.
He said: "Getting new fans into the ground is really critical.
“The reaction from a number of Shamrock Rovers fans online has been pretty negative.
"The fear is this will be reciprocated, and the likes of the St Pat’s, Dundalk, Bohs and Shelbourne will charge Shamrock Rovers a premium to get into their grounds.”
Alan, a Shamrock Rovers fan, told the show that the “optics of this don’t look good”.
He said: “We’re trying to increase the attendance of our games - this is not going to encourage the casual fan to go to a match.
“In fairness to Rovers, their season ticket pricing is very good - this is probably trying to push people towards that. But at the same time, not everyone can afford that upfront payment.”
He said this change applies to around half of the 10 premier division SSE Airtricity League teams, observing: "They’re essentially classing half the League as category A games.
"I understand they do this in England and the UK… but the Premier League is a 20-team league, so it’s a little easier to classify certain clubs.”
Mark Lynch, head of communications at Shamrock Rovers Football Club, said they've had to make the move due to rising costs.
He said: “That’s the first change in our pricing in over a decade. We’ve been in Tallaght Stadium since 2009, and there’s been no change.
“Change was inevitable, and costs have increased. What we’re now talking about is a 17% increase for those category A games.
“The best way to work this is out is to get a season ticket… if you buy a season ticket, you’ll get in effect six games free, so you’re not exposed to any price increase.”
He said the club has had success with their season ticket strategy in recent years, and they're looking to encourage people to avail of that.
He observed: “The season ticket prices - which is by far the biggest ticket route for fans coming to Tallaght Stadium - are unchanged from 2019. The average match price for your €200 adult season ticket works out at €11.
“We have a record number of season tickets sold in advance of our first game next week against UCD.”
However, he stressed that costs have also increased, so that is a significant factor in the decision to classify some games as 'category A'.