Regardless of all the good work that the thousands of volunteers do week in and week out for the GAA, the mess surrounding the Garth Brooks concerts has done the GAA, as a sporting organisation, a great deal of harm.
Now I am sure everyone is quite aware of the ins and outs of Mr. Brooks playing a few nights at Croker. All looked good for a while there but pressure from some of the residents that live in the streets around the stadium persuaded the Dublin City Council to grant only three out of the five nights that had already been sold out.
The country went up in arms, typical of the Irish. We all sat at home when the banks and the politicians took the country to it’s knees but we get all very excited when we cancel a couple of nights of partying.
Everyone got it in the ear from the residents - Aiken Promotions and of course the GAA. Now, like most of the members of the GAA, I do not know the ins and outs of the deals that the organisation like to get involved in and at times I do not agree.
As a member I feel I have the right to vent that opposition. However are the GAA really to blame for Garth being only allowed to play just three out of the five nights? Where do these ideas stem from?
Maybe someone in Aiken Promotions, over a cup of coffee, thought, ‘wouldn’t it be a great idea to get Garth Brooks to play in Ireland’. In his prime he had a huge base of fans here so why not. Maybe then they contacted Garth and he was all for it. But where? Well there’s a big stadium in the heart of Dublin that is empty for most of the year and the crowd that run it are always open to making a few extra euro on top of the sporting revenue. We’ll ring the boys in Croker and of course they said yes and why not.
It would have been madness to say no. But it’s at this point that the idea becomes a reality and it snowballs out of control. It goes from one or two concerts to five; four hundred thousand people buy into the idea and still there is a reluctance to believe that this may not happen.
Sure we have sold the tickets, the hotels are full up; they’re flying in from all over the world and no one suspects that there may be a problem. It is being sold all over the world; Ireland is back on it’s feet again; we’re all going to party with Garth.
Then a number of residents who live under the shadow of the jewel of the GAA decided that enough was enough and the Dublin City Council agreed with them and the fury of those who had booked their tickets and the weekend away erupted.
Whether or not the concerts go ahead is immaterial to me. I am not a fan of Mr Brooks but the harm that this will have done to the GAA will take years to repair. Mr Brooks will get on with his life and his public relations company will make sure that he was not the bad guy in all of this.
Aiken Promotions might suggest, through their press officer, that they were only trying to bring the best acts to the country and revive the economy but as for the GAA, we will have to hold our hands up and say we were just in it for the cash.
It asks the question whether we can cross over from being a sports organisation that promotes Irish culture with our games and all that goes with them or being a business that is only interested in the bottom line at the end of the year.
I am not being naïve. Of course it would be madness keeping the likes of Croke Park idle when it can be rented out for other purposes, but on one hand we’re selling this goody-goody image and on the other we’re all about the profit. We’re being hypercritical; we have enough of that in our everyday lives and no one said that we should put up with it just because it is the way it has been for years.
I don’t blame those who took the decision to go ahead with the concert in the first place because they would have been criticised by others if they didn’t, but like the Sky deal, the people who are making the big decisions are getting further and further away from the reality of the ordinary club member. There seems to be a disconnect between those who are at the coal face as we hear so often from our leaders and those who watch the games from the reserved seats. As Roy Keane once said, the prawn sandwich brigade.
I am not sure whether it would be that bad but the reality is for many clubs around the country is that they are struggling to keep going; everything seems to be about county teams or Croke Park, the club now seems to be in the back benches. Maybe it wasn’t such a great idea to give all the power to a couple of committees. Maybe Congress was the right place to air our views but for one reason or another it was portrayed as being old fashioned and not fit for use.
Could we yet pay the price for such arrogance.