Irish Promoter Defiant Over Police Bill

Tennent’s ViTal Festival promoter Eamonn McCann remains defiant about not paying part of the police bill for last summer’s gathering in Belfast.

The Wonderland Promotions chief is standing by his decision not to pick up a share of the £32,803 tab because he says he has no statutory obligation to do so, according to the Belfast Telegraph.

McCann, who was on vacation and couldn’t be reached at press time, also said any attempt Police Service Northern Ireland (PSNI) made to push through new legislation would open a wider debate about policing costs for sporting events and parades.

As many as 35,000 fans visited Ormeau Park – Belfast’s oldest civic space – last August 21-22 for a lineup that featured The Killers, Kasabian and Razorlight.

Although he acknowledges he received a bill for £8,200, a quarter of the total cost, McCann said he has already written to PSNI and made it clear he doesn’t intend to pay it.

He told the paper he’s only responsible for policing the crowd inside the park, formerly part of the Donegall family estate, and he hired a well-known security firm to do that.

He also cited the high-profile 2006 court case in England, when Appeal Court judges ordered West Yorkshire police to repay more than £300,000 it had charged Mean Fiddler for the Leeds leg of the Carling Weekend Festival.

"There is no law or regulation that states that I have to pay these costs. I have never paid towards policing costs before as I’ve never been asked before," McCann told the Telegraph.

"If the police want to start charging concert promoters, does that mean they will charge other events, rugby, football, the Gaelic Athletic Association or even parades?" he said.

A police spokesman was quoted saying PSNI is examining the issue and it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.

The issue won’t affect the 2008 staging of the event as Tennent Lager, which owns and sponsors the event, has decided not to go ahead this year because it’s been unable to secure the necessary talent.

"The number of festivals in the UK has now increased to over 500 thereby increasing the difficulty of securing top acts within a climate of apparent over-saturated scheduling of talent at this level," reads a note on the brewer’s festival Web site.

"Tennent’s, as owners of the festival, have subsequently been forced to take the very sad decision not to stage Tennent’s Vital this year.

"Tennent’s is currently investigating other opportunities and remain hopeful that they can continue their strong relationship with music in Northern Ireland in the near future."