There are plenty of losers to emerge in the Garth Brooks Croke Park concert debacle, but as usual those holding the shortest end of the stick are the ordinary citizens of Ireland who bought tickets and had their plans dashed by a crowd of incompetents.
Unfortunately that’s a tune more familiar in Ireland than any of Brooks’ biggest hits. People do the right thing and act in good faith, but still get screwed in the end.
Who’s to blame? Let’s start with the concert promoter Peter Aitken, who’s been putting on big shows in Ireland for decades.
Given the particular regulations governing concerts at Croke Park, the home of the GAA that sits smack in the middle of hundreds of houses in Dublin’s inner city, why did Aitken not cross every “t” and dot every “i” before selling 400,000 Brooks tickets?
The rules governing Croke Park concerts say that only three are allowed per year. That allotment has already been used thanks to the One Direction shows in May, so the Brooks shows should have been carefully managed from the get-go to avoid the disaster that was confirmed on Monday when Brooks pulled the plug due to the impasse.
The promoters clearly reckoned the Dublin County Council wouldn’t have the last-minute nerve to disappoint all the fans – many from abroad – who bought tickets. What a mistake that turned out to be.
The words “read the fine print” mean a whole lot when purchasing concert tickets in Ireland. Tickets are apparently sold “subject to license,” which is routinely granted – except when it isn’t, like this time.
The Irish concert industry now looks like a joke, quite frankly. Fans should be able to purchase tickets and make their plans safe in the knowledge that the show will go on, barring an unforeseen circumstance such as illness.
Given that the damage had already been done with regard to Brooks ticket sales – and the anticipation of local business such as hotels and pubs/restaurants – the Dublin County Council should have bit the bullet this time and sanctioned all five shows with a clear warning that such a blatant disregard for licensing laws would never be tolerated again.
As our columnist John Spain also sensibly suggests, the council should have also insisted on a ban on concerts at Croke Park for the next two years as a gesture of fairness towards the residents living in the vicinity of Croke Park.
Brooks isn’t the bad guy here. He’s been tagged as greedy for refusing to perform three shows instead of five which is unfair. He was undoubtedly told that he could play five nights and that licensing would be fixed because they always get fixed.
Brooks was also right to reject the ridiculous idea of performing two of the five shows as matinees. If the Croke Park residents were worried about over-crowding with single night shows, imagine the disaster that would loom with two shows in a day.
Brooksgate made headlines for days in Ireland, with heated opinions on both sides. To avoid such controversy and upset in the future, the time is now to start working on a practical licensing policy that is satisfactory to all, and makes Ireland an attractive place for performers.