The widely-criticised Sydney Irish Festival, which took place in November, is now part of a legal claim against the GAA.
The manufacturer of Bulmers is suing the GAA in Ireland’s High Court, claiming it reneged on a deal to put the cider brand on tap in Croke Park, according to The Times.
In its action Bulmers, owned by C&C Group, is claiming it had an agreement for “pouring rights” in GAA headquarters. But the liquor company also wants to recover sponsorship money it claims it is owed relating to the Sydney Irish Festival, a GAA event in Australia last November, because the event did not go ahead in the way it had been presented to the cider company.
It is understood that C&C Group believed that sponsorship of the festival was linked to securing “pouring rights” in Croke Park.
The two-day festival in Sydney, which was sponsored by Magners, as Bulmers is known in Australia, was reduced to a one-day event due to lower than expected ticket sales. Held in the Sydney Showground, the festival included a hurling match on November 11 between league champions Kilkenny and Galway, the All-Ireland champions of 2017.
Plans for a “family fun day” on November 10, featuring hurling clinics, amusement rides, player autograph sessions, activities for kids and a Guinness World Records attempt to make the world’s biggest Irish stew, were all cancelled just five days before the event.
Well-known ballad singer Mary Black, urban folk performer Damien Dempsey, electro-folk outfit Saint Sister and enduringly popular trad band Lúnasa had been scheduled to perform on the first day of the weekend festival. The announcement of the change was met with disappointment and rancour, especially from those who had booked travel from other states and/or time off work. The late change left them out of pocket on air fares and accommodation.
Many patrons who attended the event were quick to criticise the organisation of the day with long queues for the bars. When some reached the top of a long queue, they were further frustrated to find out they could only get two drinks per person.
Paul Sergeant of Paul Sergeant Events, who was the local organiser of the festival, told The Irish Echo that the hurling had been a huge success but “we were deeply disappointed that we had to make the difficult decision to cancel the Saturday events and we apologise for the inconvenience it will have caused.
“There has been plenty of positive feedback about the day but it was spoilt for some by their experience at the bars. The venue operator has to adhere by RSA [responsible service of alcohol] requirements specific to every event, hence the drinks limit and bar closure times,” Paul Sergeant said.
“We have discussed the issue of lengthy queues with the venue operator and they apologise for being unable to meet the huge demand.”
Asked if another festival is planned for the coming years, Mr Sergeant replied: “The 2018 event was very much a test event. A thorough de-brief will be held … and that will determine what happens in the future.”