Fan power from the Green and White Army has made the Irish FA review their controversial ticket pricing policy for home Northern Ireland games, with a prominent representative of the supporters revealing there has been â€œa lot of progressâ€ on the thorny issue.
he latest meeting between fans and top IFA officials to discuss the subject took place last night and an announcement from both parties is expected today to update Northern Ireland followers on where they stand ahead of next yearâ€™s internationals at Windsor Park.
Gary McAllister, spokesperson for the Amalgamation of Official Northern Ireland Supportersâ€™ Clubs (AoNISC), said: â€œWe had a further meeting with IFA representatives today (Thursday) and a lot of progress has been made.â€
It appears there is genuine hope among those acting on behalf of the supporters, who attended the meeting with the IFA, that their fellow fans will be content with the outcome.
The IFA did not wish to publicly comment but sources at Windsor suggest they too feel there has been progress.
Failure to move things on in a satisfactory manner would only widen the divide between the IFA and supporters, who voiced their disgust in a fierce protest towards the governing body at World Cup qualifiers in Belfast earlier this year.
There was a sense of disbelief among the Northern Ireland supporters, who the IFA label as the teamâ€™s 12th man, that they were being asked to pay so much to cheer on their heroes with individual match tickets for the crunch World Cup qualifying games against Switzerland in September and Italy last month starting at Â£52 each.
On the IFA website ahead of the Swiss game, three-match bundles for GAWA Official members had been advertised for between Â£112.50 and Â£145.50 for adults and Â£45 for juniors.
Since supporters first made their frustration and fury known at the scoreless draw with Switzerland, a series of meetings have gone on behind closed doors with AoNISC members and IFA chiefs involved.
It is up to IFA president Conrad Kirkwood, chief executive Patrick Nelson and chairman Stephen Martin, the three key figures on the IFA board who met last night, to make sure that supporters are fine with the pricing policy that will operate for Nations League fixtures in June and September in 2022 and potential friendlies at Windsor in March.
Otherwise some fans may decide not to attend the games which wonâ€™t be as glamorous as the World Cup encounters with Switzerland and Italy in which the Green and White Army raised the roof to inspire Ian Baracloughâ€™s side to two scoreless draws.
After both games, Baraclough, captain Steven Davis and other players talked about the difference having thousands of Northern Ireland fans inside the stadium made to their performance. The team had failed to impress in previous matches when, due to Covid restrictions, the ground was virtually empty.
Meanwhile, Baracloughâ€™s new contract is agreed and is waiting to be signed. The IFA are planning to make an announcement on that before the Nations League draw later this month.
On the domestic scene, after Glentoranâ€™s league match away to Coleraine on Tuesday was postponed in line with the Northern Ireland Football Leagueâ€™s Covid policy, it is understood that both the Glens and Portadown expect tomorrowâ€™s Premiership clash between them at The Oval to go ahead.
Speaking about the midweek postponement after Covid-related issues were discovered in the Glentoran camp, Oval boss Mick McDermott said: â€œThe NIFL decision was the only correct one when faced with this unique challenge of Covid issues arising on a match day.
â€œNIFLâ€™s priority was to protect everyone involved, so the only sensible option was to postpone the match. I thank NIFL for their prompt and objective decision â€” it was for the greater good.
â€œIt is imperative we do the right thing, all of the time.â€