Sunday 8 December 2019

'Calling off concerts will cost Garth Brooks millions' - concert promoter Peter Aiken

Concert promoter Aiken says decision on Croke Park gigs will be taken by Tuesday

Garth Brooks
Garth Brooks
Garth Brooks. Photo: Getty Images
People queue for Garth Brooks at the bridge water centre
Lucky fans with tickets Sisters Michelle and Gemma Coughlan from King Street
Fans queueing for tickets for Garth Brooks' Croke Park gigs.
Garth Brooks

Emma Jane Hade

Concert promoter Peter Aiken has said Garth Brooks will lose millions if all five Croke Park gigs will be cancelled.

He told RTE Radio this morning that that he was the one who broke the news to Brooks about the decision to cancel two shows.

The singer wanted to play in the stadium, and was disappointed when he heard about the planning debacle, Aiken said.

A decision will be made by Tuesday as to whether any of the planned Garth Brooks' concerts at Croke Park will go ahead, concert promoters Aiken told RTE as discussions on plans continue over the weekend.

“His attitude is, to play three shows and not do the other three, is 'I’m better off not playing to anybody then?' Why play 3 nights and then there’s 160000 who don’t get to see the show and I can understand that” said Aiken.

Aiken is adamant that Brooks “won’t back down”.

“He was shocked when he heard, I told him all along that it was okay and if I had any inclination all along, I would have flagged it but I didn’t. Everybody was devastated.”

Aiken went on to speak about the idea which many have regarding moving the location to Phoenix park.

“There’s nowhere else to do it because of the licence application. It takes 10 weeks for a licence application to go through. It’s 16,000 tickets and there’s nowhere else that could take that. We have sold 50,000 seats as well. These people have paid for seats, and then you have 80,000 people in Phoenix Park. And the residents up there have made a lot of objections as well. It’s just not that simple.”

“The show that he wanted to put on was going to be a spectacular show."

"Garth Brooks is the type of guy that if he was only going to do three shows it would be a huge anticlimax for him”

"I was under the belief that I would get a license, with some heavy conditions maybe associated with finishing times and the level of stewarding... but through the whole process when we started this here I never, ever got an inkling that this was going to happen,” he said.

Mr. Aiken said the cost to Aiken Promotions if all five concerts are cancelled will run to “seven figures” while Brooks would “be out millions”.

When asked if he thinks Brooks will do only three shows Aiken said: “No I don’t think so. Garth has made it clear that it’s five or none, and I don’t think he’ll back down.

"Of course I would like him to do the three shows. He wants five. “

Aiken went on to say that the idea of the gig taking place in Phoenix park cannot be entertained, due to licensing issues.

“There’s nowhere else to do it. There’s no other place for the show. It takes 10 weeks for us to get the licence for it.

Aiken added that Brooks' team had designed graphics specifically for Croke Park, so there's no going back.

"Garth brooks says that Croke Park is the best stadium he was ever in and when he heard that it had been renovated he knew this was the place he wanted to go to."

"The graphics for the show are designed for Croke Park and there is no other venue in the country that will be able to host the occasion. “

Mr Aiken said even though right now there are no concerts, he hasn't given up hope.

“There’s still a bit of hope. There’s still work going on behind the scenes, both [by] ourselves and Croke Park and I think a final decision will have to be made Monday or Tuesday”.

“We’re just going to keep working away as much as we can, meeting as many people as we can and doing whatever we can to try and get some light at the end of this,” he said, adding that they were also in constant contact with Garth Brooks and his representatives.

Ireland's international reputation is in tatters as fears grow that none of the Garth Brooks concerts in Croke Park will now take place.

While Aiken said he would hold crisis talks this weekend, Dublin City Council confirmed that there was no mechanism to amend or appeal its decision to refuse permission for two of the five gigs.

Over 70,000 fans from abroad, who have bought tickets and already made travel plans, are in the dark about which – if any – of the dates will be honoured.

Labour Relations Commission (LRC) chief executive Kieran Mulvey said the country's image abroad was "in shreds".

Ireland also faces being hit in the pocket, as each concert is estimated to be worth €10m to the economy.

"I think we all recognise the city has lost, the country has lost, our reputation is in shreds over this in terms of international concerts," warned Mr Mulvey, who had delivered a mediation report in an attempt to broker a deal between GAA chiefs and annoyed residents.

Dublin City Council last night refused to bow to pressure to grant permission for all five Garth Brooks concerts, raising fears for the three gigs which were given the green light.

In a strongly worded statement, the council defended its decision to refuse permission for two of the gigs and quashed hopes of a U-turn.

"It should be noted that event licence decisions made under the Planning & Development Acts cannot be amended or appealed," the council's statement read last night.

It comes after Garth Brooks stated that it was "five shows or none at all".

However, Mr Aiken admitted the countdown was on and he must now "make a decision very quickly on what is going to happen".

A cargo ship carrying 18 trucks with the customised equipment and staging – which Brooks helped select through snapping photographs of precisely where he wanted the stage to be set in Croke Park – departed from the US on July 1 en route to Ireland.

In the wake of the debacle, Tourism Minister Leo Varadkar stated there was a need to review licensing laws for major events to halt 11th-hour difficulties, as he described the cancellations as a blow to fans and visitors coming from abroad.

However, Mr Aiken admitted he must "make a decision very quickly on what is going to happen".

Yet for those dedicated fans watching and waiting, Mr Aiken said ahead of this weekend's crisis meeting he believed there remained "a little bit of hope".

Other potential venues, including Punchestown Racetrack in Co Kildare, Thomond Park in Limerick and Pairc Ui Chaoimh in Cork, suggested they might be able to accommodate the concerts. But Mr Aiken ruled out relocating due to the massive logistics involved.

He insisted that changing the dates would also not be an option due to the 70,000 international fans who are due to arrive in Dublin. "You just couldn't move it, the sheer scale of this show couldn't be moved. I can't see any way around it," the businessman said.

He also defended Garth Brooks's comment that it was "five shows or none at all".

"He doesn't see it as five (nights), he sees it as the comeback event, he sees the movie. It's an event, it's a whole lot of things," explained the promoter.

Mr Aiken said that a documentary was being made on the shows and was already scheduled to be aired on a major American television network, and that film crews who are working on the World Cup were due to fly in to capture it all.

Several resident groups in the Croke Park area raised angry objections over the five-in-a-row gigs and were critical of the impact on family life, while yesterday some residents said they'd been misrepresented and called for the two cancelled concerts to now go ahead.

The council said they raised the concerns over the potential impact of five dates upon the local community with the promoters, but Mr Aiken said this was normal for any show.

As pressure on the council mounted, city bosses moved to state that it had been "consistent" in informing the promoter and his agents that its main concern was "the impact that five consecutive concerts would have on the area".

It pointed out the concert promoter could have lodged the licence application at any stage, including before the 400,000 tickets went on sale in late January and early February.

The council said it was not formally consulted by the promoter prior to the tickets going on sale; however, it pointed out there is no requirement for this.

But it "again" raised concerns during informal discussions with the promoter's agent prior to the Outdoor Event Licence being received on April 17 for the five consecutive concerts from July 25 to July 29.

However, Mr Aiken insisted that he was "completely blindsided" by DCC's decision to refuse permission for two of the dates, and said that he or his staff had never had any indication that there would be an issue with the licence.

"I never came away from a meeting and said I think we are in serious trouble here. It was never indicated to me that there was a chance that these wouldn't happen, and that is the truth," the promoter said.

"I wouldn't have gone ahead," he insisted. "We have been going 53 years, I would not do this. I have never been in for a licence application when people have said 'yes, there are no problems with this'," he added.

Mr Varadkar said the onus was on the promoters to ensure the two other concerts are rescheduled or relocated.

He said the "very last minute" cancellation of the two concerts was "clearly unsatisfactory from everyone's point of view" and highlighted the need for a review of major events licensing laws.

"Nonetheless residents have legitimate concerns about five concerts in a row which the GAA has conceded was a mistake," said Mr Varadkar.

The Restaurants Association of Ireland (RAI) called for a single national events body to streamline all tourism, music and sporting events in Ireland.

"The breakdown in communication between organisations in the Garth Brooks fiasco has the potential to damage Brand Ireland abroad, but also tourism businesses internally," RAI Chief Executive Adrian Cummins said.

Chief executive of the Irish Tourist Industry Confederation Eamonn McKeon also called on authorities to allow the concerts to go ahead, but suggested a donation of profits from the two cancelled concerts be made to residents or charity.

He also said legislation should be reviewed so event organisers cannot sell tickets without first being granted a licence from the council.

Mr Aiken said a formal announcement on the concerts will be made early next week.

Irish Independent

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