In a somewhat predictable outcome, all five upcoming Garth Brook’s gigs in Croke Park have been confirmed cancelled. The largely foretold conclusion to this sorry saga was announced on Tuesday afternoon, after days of wrangling among all parties involved in the power struggle, and a titanic three-way tug-of-war between Dublin City Council, Croke Park Residents Association, and the man himself. In the aftermath of this debacle, we can chalk up a country’s reputation torn and tattered, some 400,000 -now useless- tickets sold, and an estimated 50m worth to the economy, vanished in a maelstrom of citizen complaints, showbiz greed, and secret agendas.
Let’s look at the main players in this tragedy of Irish proportions, and a brief timeline of events.
- Dublin City Council, the entity that gave the go-ahead for the three concert dates originally planned.
- The GAA, Croke Park’s stadium owners and its governing body
- Croke Park Residents Association, the outspoken cabal residing under the eaves of the stadium.
- Aiken Promotions, the shows’ promoters, and particularly Peter Aiken.
- And the man who had high hopes of reviving his career with 5 sell-out gigs in the Emerald Island, Garth Brooks.
Timeline of Events
January 20: After weeks rife with rumours and speculation, it is finally announced that the multi-platinum crooner Garth Brooks will play in Croke Park. Two dates are originally scheduled, July 25 and July 26. Fans begin queuing for tickets days before they actually go on sale.
January 30: Tickets go on sale at 9 a.m. All 170k of them are gone within 90 minutes. Due to this firestorm of sales, the promoter (Aiken Promotions) quickly adds a third date, July 27. It is worth mentioning at this point that these three dates were rubber stamped and given the go-ahead by Dublin City Council, and herein lies one of the key issues of the whole debacle. Croke Park stadium is only licenced to host 3 concerts per year, as agreed with the Council and other parties, and residents were provided with written documentation to that effect. Considering that One Direction had already used up such allocation earlier in the year, one can elucidate that Croke Park’s governing body (the GAA) did blatantly disregard this clause.
February 3: Due to phenomenal ticket sales (some fans reportedly offer kidneys and wives in exchange for a chance to see their idol), a fourth date (July 28) is greedily added to the brew.
February 6: Brooksmania has firmly gripped the country. With some 28 million spent in concert tickets, a fifth and final concert date is announced. Ireland keeps buying tickets as if there is no tomorrow.
Mid-February: Croke Park residents make their voices heard, and loud. They express concerns about the scale of the gigs announced, and say that ‘they won’t prostitute themselves for the GAA‘. It is worth pointing out that due to the astronomical ticket sales, the GAA stands in line to reap over 5m out of the whole Brooks affair, and also over the previous One Direction concerts. With this in mind, we’ll revert back to a heated exchange between GAA representative (Peter McKenna, Commercial and Stadium Director) and Croke Park residents, where Mr. McKenna stated that a written agreement, signed on behalf of the GAA by Christy Cooney, President and Paraic Duffy, General Secretary between the GAA and the local community in 2009 agreeing to only three concerts per year, was to be ignored because ‘time moves on’. One could nearly see the dollar signs on Peter McKenna’s eyelids every time the man blinked. Croke Park residents retort by announcing that a court injunction is one of the legal options they are considering to halt the concerts.
It is somewhere around this moment in time that Dublin City Council presses the nuclear button and reveals that all they granted licences for was three concerts. Three. And not five.
Remember, 400,000 tickets have already been sold at this point. A lot of money has changed hands. Not to mention hotel bookings (at grossly over inflated prices, of course. Everyone wants a slice of the Brooks pie, and hoteliers will not stand idle), train fares, etc.
There are desperate attempts to save the two offending dates. The promoters speculate that the last two concerts could be moved to alternative venues, such as Slane or the Aviva stadium. For one reason or another, these options prove unworkable.
In the meantime, Anthony Fay (a solicitor representing some of the Croke Park residents who object to the continuous run of gigs at the grounds, claims that disgruntled fans are “considering taking action against the promoters for the losses and inconvenience this has caused them”. The whole saga quickly descends into a slugging match.
But it is Garth Brooks himself who slams home the final nail in the Croke Park affair’s coffin when he blithely states ‘Five shows or none at all.’
From that point on, the writing was clearly printed on the wall, and no amount of wrangling or negotiating could save a rapidly sinking ship. Peter Aiken from Aiken Promotions flew to the US last week in a heroic last ditch attempt to save the day, but the official announcement finally came through on Tuesday afternoon that all five gigs had been cancelled. This protracted debacle has received wide international coverage, and Ireland’s reputation has been put into question, yet again. Big acts will now think twice before coming here.
So who’s to blame for the disaster?
In my opinion, everyone, and no one. If a culprit must be named, we could name that eons-old human trait, greed. The same avarice that broke Ireland’s back during the Celtic Tiger’s heyday. If the original three dates had been respected, it is safe to assume that Garth Brooks would have played three shows to a packed audience. Everyone would have won; the crooner himself, the promoters, the fans.
A very poignant report circulated around Associated Press’s newswire yesterday, “Like an ill-fated romance in a country song, Garth Brooks and Dublin just weren’t meant to be.”
Indeed. Greed got the better of a few, and everyone has lost.