The Gibraltar Football Association will grant free entry to the friendly match against Estonia on March 26 to make up for lengthy delays experienced by fans trying to buy tickets to the game against Ireland.
Hundreds queued from early morning yesterday, forming a queue stretching along much of Irish Town as they waited to purchase two tickets each.
The Gibraltar FA headquarters in Irish Town, close to Irish Place, was the focal point for local fans waiting to get their tickets for Gibraltar’s first qualifier group match against Ireland.
The match, which will be played at the Victoria Stadium, saw people waiting for up to three hours after the doors opened and tickets went on sale.
Some had been waiting from as early as 7am, even though the ticket office opened its doors at 10am.
“I will be standing there from 7am if I have to,” one mother told the Chronicle on Sunday, as she discussed with other fans plans to ensure they got tickets for the match.
Another commented: “If I don’t go myself, he [her husband] won’t be able to go until after work and by that time they will be sold out.”
Following complaints made by some fans, the Gibraltar FA responded by apologising for what it described as “unacceptable delays.”
In a statement issued yesterday afternoon after the doors closed, a spokesman said: “Regrettably we are aware that, in some cases, there were queuing times in excess of three hours, which is of course entirely unacceptable and not a scene we want repeated.”
“The GFA wholeheartedly apologises for this.”
Shedding some light on why the current system was put in place for this match, the association explained that it had been instructed to allocate a large portion of tickets to the Irish Football Association, representing about 40% of tickets.
Explaining that the demand exceeded the allocation, they opted not to sell online as “…there was a real risk that these would be purchased by Irish supporters who missed out on the away section allocation.”
The Gibraltar FA added that in order “to protect the interests of the local supporter”, it took the “cautious method of removing the online system and selling them from our official shop in Irish Town, and requesting documentation of residence in Gibraltar.”
This, it said, was due to the “the absence in our system of any secure ‘geo-blocking’
technology that would ensure fans living in Gibraltar had priority on tickets at all times.”
The GFA admitted that the sales procedure had taken much longer than anticipated.
The process will be reviewed for future home matches.
The GFA also announced that the review will include the launch of a Gibraltar FA Supporters Club scheme that “will prioritise loyal supporters and will allow the GFA to better control ticket sale procedures in future.”
The GFA spokesman adding “as a gesture of gratitude, the GFA can announce that entry for the official friendly match versus Estonia on 26th March will be free of charge.”