The European Rugby Cup (ERC) yesterday (Tuesday Feb 18th) stood over Munster's claims that they were entitled to just over 4,000 tickets for their Heineken European Cup quarter-final clash with Leicester at Welford Road on April 13th.
The ERC confirmed they had written to the English club to remind them that Munster were entitled to 25 per cent of the capacity of Welford Road's 16,700 capacity.
The ERC thus came down firmly on Munster's side, after Leicester had earlier stated that Munster would only receive 25 percent of the seats remaining after season ticket holders, journalists, and tickets for ERC personnel were allocated. The club said they would not know the exact number available to the provincial side until the season ticket holders had taken up their option.
Friday is the deadline for the season ticket holders to take up their options. Only then, say the club, in contravention of what the ERC are stating, would they be in a position to determine how many tickets can be passed on to Munster.
Club spokesman Simon Rossiter-Stead said yesterday that even then, they did not have to make tickets available to Munster until March 23rd.
"The ERC have already written to Leicester on this issue to remind them of their responsibilities to the Participation Agreement and to clarify the ticket allocation, as if clarification was needed. Munster are entitled to just over 4,000 tickets," said ERC official Diarmuid Murphy."There appears to be a general misunderstanding here," said Rossiter-Stead. "Munster are not entitled to 25 per cent of the tickets of the ground capacity but 25 per cent of the tickets available for sale. We would not be handing over 25 per cent of hospitality, or 25 per cent of ERC allocations or 25 per cent of press seats. How can we give away seats that ticket holders or ERC take up."?
"We have written to the ERC twice and we are still waiting to hear back from them. But if you read the Participation Agreement there is no issue here and we don't have to provide anything for Munster for another four and a half weeks."
The ERC yesterday dismissed the Leicester interpretation of the agreement and said the club was incorrect on this issue. They also denied suggestions they have not been in touch with Welford Road on the matter.
"They (Leicester) are in no doubt that the Participation Agreement means 25 per cent of capacity," said Murphy. "That is what we expect to be provided to the travelling team. I'd expect this to be resolved in the coming weeks."
The Participation Agreement, to which all clubs in the competition are subject, states that "a visiting team is entitled to 25 per cent of all categories of tickets that are available for sale".
Munster had pointed out that season ticket holders fall into this category of "tickets available for sale", while Leicester were putting forward the notion that they did not.
"Our position is that the season tickets should be included in the 25 per cent," said a Munster official yesterday.
"In addition, when we allocate tickets for Thomond Park, we do not take seats off the public to accommodate the press. That's a fudge."
Against the backdrop of the dispute, questions are also being asked about Leicester's decision to stage the event at Welford Road in the first place as both teams are known to have massive support. The general consensus is the match could easily have attracted over 30,000 fans to a bigger venue, such as the Walker Stadium, with Munster confidently predicting they could bring 15,000 supporters with them.
French club Toulouse yesterday decided to relocate their match against Northampton Saints to the 35,000-plus capacity La Stade stadium, while Leinster have already undertaken such a move from their usual home venue at Donnybrook to Lansdowne Road in order to accommodate potential ticket demands for their quarter-final match against French side Biarritz. It is unlikely, at this stage, that Leicester will change the venue.
( Article reproduced courtesy of The Irish Times).