I’m very proud of my hometown of Manchester. So when the news came that the UK’s biggest concert venue was about to open in the city last month, I was thrilled.

A publicity blitz occurred. We were promised ground-breaking acoustics, all kinds of innovations to impress the most seasoned gig-goer and even Harry Styles was on board!

Well, I think we all know what happened next… After weeks of messages from tearful Olivia Rodrigo fans and endless calls from my friends who had tickets booked for upcoming events, the Co-op Live Arena has finally opened with the mighty Elbow giving the first official concert.

But all of this left me thinking about gigs, festivals, events, sports and other things that we might have booked and paid for. If something goes wrong, what happens about refunds? What about hotel rooms? What if a headliner doesn’t show up to a festival?

Here’s my guide to all of this and more (with a little extra help from my top TV expert mate, Gary Rycroft).

Cancellation and rescheduled events

When an event is cancelled, you are entitled to a full refund. This is usually paid through the card or payment method you used to buy the tickets. In many cases though, your ticket usually transforms in to a new one if the event gets rescheduled. Once again, if you can’t attend the rescheduled date you should also get a refund, though there may be a cut-off point for applying for this. If you miss it, then make a complaint if the business didn’t notify you clearly about the new dates.

Some refunds are issued automatically but not all of them. If you’ve lost or replaced your debit or credit card or changed banks since the tickets were booked, contact the ticket agency to request a full refund to an alternative account. You will have to prove who you are though.

If you’ve bought through a resale agency then things get tricky. Contact the seller of the tickets as they are the ones who will have to claim the refund and pass it on to you.

Accommodation, travel and additional costs

Unless you have booked a ticket and accommodation package then sadly, your accommodation and other costs are considered to be separate legal arrangements. So should the concert not go ahead, you are unlikely to be able to claim the cost incurred by you in cancelling a hotel from the concert promoter. This is because these costs are considered to have arisen ‘as a consequence’ rather than having a direct connection to the booking, which means they are not the responsibility of the artist or venue who cancels the event.

Alternatively you can always ask the hotel or provider of accommodation if you can move your booking to a date in the future, though this is likely to cost a bit of cash – and this is at their discretion.

However, things aren’t that black and white.  An artist falling ill, or an unexpected event like a flood resulting in a gig cancellation is not considered predictable. But I would argue that the failure to complete construction or repairs to a venue is a ‘foreseeable’ event – particularly if the business knew about potential problems but failed to warn the public.

Under these circumstances, you could ask the business responsible to compensate you for any losses you could have avoided had they told you up front about the situation.

Event insurance

I’ve always been deeply sceptical about ticket companies selling insurance policies for lost tickets and cancelled events. As I’ve mentioned earlier, you get your money back anyway if such an event occurs.

However, gig insurance policies seem to have evolved a bit in recent years and now cover ‘missed events’ (sometimes). I’ve checked a few of these policies out and some cover a range of scenarios, from a death in the family to strike action on transport or illness. But they vary massively in quality. Shop around online first to see if you can buy a standalone policy to cover a gig going wrong, rather than clicking on the one at the till.

Transport meltdowns

It’s been a bit chaotic in the world of public transport recently, with trains in particular subject to the whims of strikes, staff shortages and rubbish service. On the roads, some pretty major roadworks have resulted in major tailbacks. And flights are getting pricier.

As a general rule, if you can’t get to an event due to transport problems, then that’s not considered to be the fault of the event manager – unless you’ve been sold a package that includes transport. So plan for the worst. Have a look at alternatives to the train if yours gets cancelled on the day. We often forget coaches, but they are cheap and reliable. But bear in mind that coaches, like cars, may encounter big delays so build in extra time to get to your destination. You might also want to prebook parking spaces if you’re driving.

You might get lucky though if you’re due to attend a rescheduled event. You usually have the right to get a refund if you can’t attend the new date, though if you leave it to the last minute, you’ll miss your window of opportunity to seek a refund. If you bought direct from an official ticket site, they have resale options so you can avoid the touts and resale agents.

In most cases though, you’ll have to see if someone wants to buy your ticket. Outside of the resale options through the ticket agency site or app, you may be able to transfer ownership, or gift, the tickets to someone you know who lives nearby and is able to attend the gig. This can be a fiddly and frustrating process, so to save time, check the app, make sure the tickets are there and ask the recipient to download the app too.

Festival line-up changes

In recent years, a number of festivals have been impacted by key performers dropping out due to sickness or scheduling conflicts. The fact remains that performers can get ill, or choose to cancel appearances. But the festival itself may still go ahead.

Should this happen, you won’t usually be entitled to a refund. However, it might be worth contacting the ticket agency anyway if you can demonstrate you were only attending to see one particular artist. This is at the discretion of the event organiser though, so be nice and be prepared to compromise – a partial refund would be a big win. Amazingly, some festivals have compromised on this in the past when a comparable headliner could not be provided.

Storms and safety

Of course, other things can put you off attending gigs and events. Organisers are often reluctant to cancel events until it’s apparent that there’s no other option. So if you’re worried about the prospect of severe thunderstorms and the chance of being struck by lightning, you might find the gig isn’t called off until the last minute.

If it’s clear that there’s a problem already in play – like a flooded field – you may be able to negotiate a refund. This could also apply if it becomes apparent an event has been oversold or there are significant safety concerns.

When a piece of equipment fell of the roof of the Co-op Life Arena just before the original opening gig, that’s clearly a safety breach. You could, in theory, argue that you have legitimate safety concerns and want a refund on these grounds. However, this may be turned down if the venue can prove that it has passed all the relevant security checks.

My top three tips when buying tickets and attending gigs

If you’re planning on going to a gig or event, here’s my checklist:

  • Always pay on a credit card if the costs are over £100 as you can claim back from the card provider if the promoter goes bust or there’s a refund problem.
  • With accommodation, choose the option that allows you to cancel close to the date of the event.
  • Try to avoid buying train or travel tickets until closer to the event – and check the refund policies.

Check the ticket site’s app so you know how to claim refunds, contact the firm and ‘gift’ tickets you can’t use.

Featured in Mirror – Martyn James. Gary Rycroft

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