BALLYMENA United officials have questioned Ballymena Borough Council’s decision to make this year’s Boxing Day match against Coleraine an all-ticket fixture.
Showgrounds chiefs are concerned that the decision, which is based on health and safety grounds, will lead to a huge loss in income for the eagerly-awaited fixture.
The decision has been taken by the local authority’s Safety Advisory Group and it will mean that a maximum of just over 3,000 spectators will be able to attend the fixture, which traditionally attracts crowds of close to 4,000.
Although the actual seated capacity of the Warden Street venue is almost 4,000 seats, a sizeable chunk of that is knocked off by the fact that for ticketing purposes, 10 per cent of the capacity of each stand is subtracted.
Ticketing will be on a ‘general’ basis in that a ticket will be issued but it will not include any actual designated allocated seat number.
On that basis, there will be 1,417 seats for home fans in the ‘home’ stand, while there will be up to 1,828 seats available in the Warden Street stand, which will be occupied by Coleraine fans.
A United source told Times Sport: “It is our biggest money-spinner and it only happens once every two years because Coleraine are at home on Boxing Day in alternate years.
“At a time when Irish League clubs are struggling to make ends meet, like many businesses, we are being hamstrung by legislation which prevents us from making money.
“Where we really lose out is from people who maybe make a last-minute decision to attend the game, perhaps on the morning of the match – those people will not be able to make that decision.
“We are urgently seeking to clarify with the Council whether the club will be allowed to seel tickets from an outlet on the day of the match - this will be a key decision.
“It’s a sign of the times that this fixture is being designated all-ticket for the first time ever, but the club has no option but to comply with health and safety directives,” the source added.
Times Sport made a number of calls to Ballymena Borough Council seeking information on the decision to make the match all-ticket, but no response had been received at the time of going to press.