Ticketmaster Ireland has been offering GAA county boards cash incentives to sign up or renew contracts with the digital ticket sales agent, internal communications show.
The company, the Republic’s biggest online ticket outlet, consented in 2020 to a High Court order limiting its use of exclusive deals and upfront payments, following an investigation by a State agency, the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC).
Internal GAA emails show that, this year, Ticketmaster has offered rebates and loyalty credits to individual counties to sign up to its Universe ticket sales app under a new deal negotiated with the association. These included rebates of 15 per cent of commissions paid last year to Ticketmaster and a loyalty payment of €7,500 to all “existing and new counties” who sign three-year deals to use the app.
“If the direct cost of Universe to your county board was €60,000 last year in direct fees for Universe sales – €9,000 will be paid back in the form a rebate directly to the county,” says the mail from Emma Tormey, GAA ticketing manager, to county boards.
Ticketmaster pledged to pay the rebates and loyalty credits once counties completed signing up. The mail refers to the company as the GAA’s “preferred ticketing solutions provider”.
The GAA said the deal covered club games within each county but not intercounty fixtures. It did not say whether Ticketmaster was the only ticket agent for counties that signed up.
The association pointed out that not all counties have signed up with Ticketmaster, adding that some county boards can go, and have gone, with other providers for these games.
Ticketmaster also has a close relationship with music promoter MCD and was advertised as the exclusive agent for next year’s Coldplay concerts in Croke Park, which sold out rapidly.
The company said it was “in full compliance” with the 2020 court order. “The terms of our financial arrangements are confidential,” Ticketmaster added.
The company states that the order does not bar it from making exclusive deals.
The order requires Ticketmaster Ireland to refrain from entering any agreement with a venue that includes an exclusivity clause. It also bars the company from entering any agreement with a live event organiser that includes an exclusivity clause if the deal lasts longer than three years.
It cannot agree any contract that lasts longer than five years, nor can any of its deals be automatically renewed.
Once the court issued the order in November 2020, Ticketmaster Ireland had to release event organisers and venues from any exclusivity clauses in their contracts, and give them the right to automatically terminate agreements after five years.
Ticketmaster cannot offer upfront payments to customers designed to get around any of those terms.
The company agreed the order’s terms with the CCPC following an investigation by the regulator.
The CCPC inquiry’s preliminary findings identified infringements of Irish competition law. Organisations investigated by the commission can avoid legal proceedings by entering agreements that address the regulator’s concerns and govern their future behaviour.
The commission’s report notes that while Ticketmaster disputed that it had violated competition law, it made an agreement that tackled the regulator’s concerns. Both agreed to have this made an order of court.
The regulator confirmed at the weekend that it was monitoring Ticketmaster’s compliance with the agreement and order. It noted that any failure to comply would be contempt of court.
“The CCPC has also been actively monitoring the impact of the required changes on the sector generally,” said the commission. “Within this context, the CCPC is aware of the issues that have been raised and is continuing to engage with Ticketmaster and with live event organisers and venues.”