The Gibraltar Football Association (GFA) has apologised to fans after concerns over Irish fans buying up tickets to a forthcoming UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying game forced the organisation to take down its online system.

Gibraltar is set to face Ireland at the Victoria Stadium (pictured) on March 23. The match represents the opening qualifier for both nations, while it will also be Mick McCarthy’s first competitive game in charge following his return as Ireland coach.

These factors meant that the GFA had expected high demand for tickets from Irish fans at a stadium which has a capacity of only 2,300. The Football Association of Ireland (FAI) was allocated 900 tickets, with the remaining 1,400 going on sale to Gibraltar fans on Monday.

The match swiftly sold out and the GFA has spoken out over the extra measures put in place for ticketing. As a condition of allowing Gibraltar to play its home matches in the Victoria Stadium, the GFA said European governing body UEFA instructed it to allocate a large portion of tickets to the FAI, in order to adequately cater for the demand of the Irish supporters.

The GFA said that had it allowed online sales, there was a “real risk” that the ‘home’ allocation would be purchased by Irish supporters who missed out on the away section. The GFA added: “To protect the interests of the local supporter, and to ensure that as many Gibraltarians as possible had the chance to purchase a ticket, we 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 is particularly relevant in 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.”

This meant that there were reports of queueing times in excess of three hours for tickets, which the GFA admits is “entirely unacceptable”. The association said it will review the entire process in time for its next home qualifier against Denmark on September 5.

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. In the meantime, the GFA has said it will make entry free of charge for its friendly against Estonia on March 26 as a “gesture of gratitude” to fans.

Image: Gibraltar FA