Monday 20 May 2019

Aoife Kelly: Does Croke Park now have a future as a venue for international artists?

Croke Park
Croke Park
Aoife Kelly

Aoife Kelly

The week-long debacle that has unfolded since Dublin City Council refused a license for two of the five Garth Brooks concerts, culminating in the cancellation of all five today, has undoubtedly done untold damage to Ireland's reputation as a tour location for big name international music acts.

Since it opened its gates to music in 1996, the landmark GAA arena has played host to U2, twice, as well as Take That, Celine Dion, Bon Jovi, and, earlier this year, One Direction, but its future as a music venue now hangs in the balance. 

The license refusal is a story that has reverberated internationally, not just amongst the 400,000 disappointed Garth Brooks fans, but amongst the money men; the artists and promoters.  According to the promoters in this case, Aiken Promotions, they stand to lose a "seven figure sum" whilst Brooks himself stands to lose "millions." 

It boils down to cash, and there is not a promoter on the planet who would be willing to risk millions by booking Croke Park this side of next century. 

It took 18 years to build Croke Park's reputation as the ultimate tour stop for big name acts, with its huge 80,000 capacity (30,000 more than the Aviva), and just a week to decimate.  Whatever the reasons that have led to the cancellation of the concerts, to the rest of the world it simply 'looks like Ireland can't get its act together,' as one Irish fan based in New York told yesterday. 

There are no winners.  The promoters lose, the artist loses, the fans lose, local businesses lose, the GAA loses.  A victory by the residents in this instance will have long-reaching implications.  Without music acts, and it's not trite to say the bookings ledger at Croke Park will remain untainted by ink for the foreseeable future, the long-term future of the stadium, which had, according to the GAA, become debt-free last year, may be in jeopardy.

There's a wider issue here too.  It's not just Croke Park's reputation that is tarnished in the wake of this situation, it's Ireland's reputation as a host for big name acts across the board whether that's the Aviva or Slane or Croker. 

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