Ireland rugby fans who were denied accessible tickets for this weekend’s Six Nations classic against France have voiced their anger after finding out an entire section was left empty for the game.
On Lunchtime Live this afternoon, wheelchair user Jack Kavanagh said he had been trying to get tickets to the game for months – but was told they were totally sold out.
Just after the final whistle on Saturday, he was sent a batch of photos showing an entire accessible section – capable of hosting 16 wheelchairs users – had been left empty.
Incredibly #frustrated. I & numerous other #wheelchair users tried to get tickets to #IrelandvFrance & were told there were no accessible tickets left & put on waiting list/no response. Here is one of multiple #empty #accessible sections at the match today. Answers @IrishRugby?? pic.twitter.com/aqqsP1FJ6V
— Jack Kavanagh (@JackKavanaghIRL) February 11, 2023
He is calling on the IRFU to ensure it makes full use of the accessible sections on offer moving forward – calling on the union to do everything it can to bring live rugby to as many fans as possible.
“I’ve been a huge rugby fan my whole life,” he said. “I’ve played since I was a kid and acquired an injury that has resulted in me using a wheelchair now.
“So I applied for accessible tickets as I had often done and back in January when I called, I was told there are none available, it’s fully sold, out but email in and we’ll put you on the waiting list."
He said a number of other fans he knows had also been having difficulties getting accessible tickets – and when he called again last week, he was told the match was totally sold out.
“Immediately after the match finished, a friend of mine who had had a similar experience but did get tickets sent me a number of photos,” he said.
“I was quite frustrated I have to say when I saw the photos. What the photos showed was that there were multiple entire wheelchair sections that were empty.
“Not just no wheelchair users but many disabilities are invisible and there was nobody sitting in these sections.”
He said the friend who sent the photos was told by stewards that the section is often empty for games.
Also on the show, the man who took the photos, Philip Quinlin, said there two full accessible sections left empty for the match.
He rejected the IRFU’s claim that all available accessible tickets were sold to fans.
“Those two areas weren’t sold at all for some reason,” he said. “I don’t know why.
“It is physically an impossibility that two whole sections were empty and they are saying they sold all the tickets.
“It is not the case. Genuinely I don’t believe that.”
In a statement, the IRFU said there a total of 196 accessible seats were put on sale for the match.
“A number of wheelchair accessible seats were not used on the day which is consistent across all categories of seating in the stadium on matchdays,” it said. “The reasons for this might include health issues, transport delays or other personal reasons.”
It said some seats in the stadium, “including in the wheelchair-accessible section” are not available “due to health and safety reasons, arising from the increased demands of broadcasting modern day professional rugby”.
It said it understands the frustration of fans who could not go to the match and promised to do all it can to ensure as many supporters as possible can continue to attend games in the future.