Organisers of the Galway Races have been fielding phone calls from racing fans in tears at the thought of missing out on this year’s festival.
It comes after it was confirmed this year’s festival will be limited to 1,000 spectators per day.
Organisers had submitted a plan that would have seen 5,000 fans in the 44,000-person venue at Ballybrit.
On Lunchtime Live this afternoon, Galway Races CEO Michael Maloney said he is “disappointed for all our supporters and fans.”
“The phones have been hopping here over the last couple of weeks in terms of people looking for tickets,” he said.
“We had people in tears on the phone yesterday unfortunately with tickets thinking they might miss out on Ballybrit this year.
“We have a large membership, I think we have about 1,200 members, so the tickets are going to be on sale to our members as a priority over the next couple of days and if there are any remaining tickets then, we will put them on sale to members of the public next week.”
He said there was extra demand this year after last year’s festival was held behind closed doors.
“Unfortunately, the majority of those fans won’t get to attend this year and it is disappointing for them because we know there are people out there that have supported us for 20 and 30 and 40 years and never missed a year – so it is just disappointing for those people really.”
Organisers got news of the decision on Tuesday night and Mr Maloney said they now have just seven working days to prepare.
“It is a lot smaller than we had thought or hoped for,” he said. “We had expected that we might not get the whole 5,000 people but we had hoped for 3,000 or 4,000.”
This weekend, 18,000 fans will attend GAA games at Croke Park and Mr Maloney said he was now seeking clarity on how the decision was made.
“We have a capacity of 44,000 people so the 1,000 people is 2% of our capacity,” he said. “It does seem quite small and other venues around the country are in the mid-20s in terms of capacity.
“But unfortunately, that is where we are that is what we have to work with and we have to get on and make the best of what we can.”
He said race week is all about Galway putting its best foot forward and said he looks forward to the festival coming back bigger and better than ever next year.
“It is not just ourselves, Galway is a real festival city and the majority of those are not taking place again this year,” he said.
“So, we are looking forward in hope to 2022 when we can hopefully have unrestricted attendances at Ballybrit and the number of people that are here will be dependant on how many people we can get through the gate.”
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