Blaming the GAA for the Katie Taylor fight fiasco is unfair and it’s stupid.
romoter Eddie Hearn says he couldn’t put the Taylor-Serrano fight on in Croke Park because the security bill of €500,000 was too high. But that claim doesn’t hold water. An attendance of 80,000 spectators would have enabled him to cover the security bill by adding €6.25 to the ticket price.
The €500,000 seems more an excuse than a reason. Maybe Hearn fears Taylor’s ability to sell out Croke Park. The first fight between the duo, billed as the biggest women’s boxing fight in history, filled Madison Square Garden. But the capacity of that venue is just 19,000. It’s a big jump from there to 80,000 so you can understand a promoter being cautious even if Taylor would almost certainly fill the stadium.
Hearn might just have been trying to secure the best possible deal. Croke Park would have been doing the same thing. After all, this is a commercial transaction. Yet there’s a very important difference between the two parties involved.
Any profit the GAA made from the event would have been ploughed back into the Association. Any profit Eddie Hearn makes would have gone into his pocket and back to England.
For a man worth around £45m, €500,000 is not a large amount, but it’s a significant sum for an organisation with an enormous amount of commitments at grassroots level. Half a million was, for example, the cost of an education programme the GAA ran last year to encourage physical activity among schoolchildren.
Calling for the GAA to cover the security costs is effectively asking them to take money away from kids and put it in Eddie Hearn’s pocket instead. That’s a very odd request. In a spectacularly witless contribution on Friday, Ryan Tubridy suggested the GAA waive the rent. This from a man who reportedly earns almost half a million a year.
Croke Park stadium director Peter McKenna was admirably forthright on the subject when asked about it. He addressed Hearn’s complaint that Croke Park’s costs are higher than Wembley by pointing out here big events are policed by the Gardaí rather than the private security firms preferred in England.
The shortcomings of the English way of doing things, McKenna noted, manifested themselves when a riot developed at Wembley during the European Championship football final in 2021.
If anything major were to go wrong, it would be disastrous for an organisation whose ability to stage major events at the venue provides a vital revenue stream, and, let’s face it, is a source of national pride.
Of course, there’s a good reason that both Croke Park and the authorities would like to run the best security operation possible.
It’s the same reason there’s been no major boxing event in Dublin for many years. The Regency Hotel shootings and the sport’s links with organised crime have rendered professional boxing toxic to promoters and venues in this country.
Hearn presumably knows this. Hasn’t he spoken about negotiating with Daniel Kinahan over a possible bout between Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua?
Croke Park has hosted many major events over the years with great success. Garth Brooks, Take That, U2, Beyonce, The Rolling Stones and many more have done their thing there. None of their promoters claimed they were being ripped off. They paid their money, then they made their money.
The difference is that they weren’t boxing promoters. The money men of the fight game tend to be a slippery lot.
Last week Hearn said first that Croke Park would cost twice as much as Wembley and then changed it to three times as much. He claimed he hadn’t met with anyone from the Irish Government only for Junior Minister for Sport Thomas Byrne to reveal that was a lie.
This is standard wide boy stuff. It’s how Eddie rolls, so why hold it against him? He’s in it to make as much money as possible by any means necessary. There’s no crime in that either, that’s the world of big money sport. But the really galling thing has been the number of people who seem to believe Hearn is a good-natured philanthropist motivated by the desire to organise a dream homecoming for Katie Taylor.
When McKenna says the GAA would love to host a Katie Taylor fight, we can take him at his word. They did, after all, host the Special Olympics and the Pope. But the Association, a community organisation whose profits benefit every parish in the country, was expected to behave like a charity. Whereas Hearn’s right to make a profit was somehow seen as sacrosanct as he became the victim.
This lunacy was aided by an apparently perpetual willingness to bash the GAA, no matter how unfair the grounds.
Remember when the organisation was blamed for causing the Covid surge simultaneously occurring all over Europe in December 2020? Those jumping the bandwagon used the word ‘shame’ quite a bit. But there’s nothing shameful about making a millionaire pay his fair share for an event from which he’ll reap large profits.
Taking the side of a fast-talking impresario over a sporting organisation which does sterling work in every parish in this country, now that’s shameful.