One Direction’s rescheduled concert has angered ice hockey team Sheffield Steelers, who hit out at the “unacceptable” late postponement of their fixture with Belfast Giants on Friday night to make way for the group’s gig.
The chart-topping band - Niall Horan, Liam Payne, Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson - pulled out of a concert at the SSE Arena in Belfast on Tuesday after Payne fell ill, and the rescheduled show will now take place on Friday, in place of the Elite League game.
The South Yorkshire ice hockey team were due to face the Giants in back-to-back games in Belfast, with the club as well as the supporters now facing the prospect of being left out of pocket.
Steelers owner Tony Smith said: “This is unacceptable and not the end of the matter.”
Smith spoke out as Payne reassured fans he is “much better”, as he prepared to perform at tonight and tomorrow’s shows, which are going ahead as planned.
The 22-year-old singer apologised to his upset followers on Twitter, writing: “I’m so sorry to everybody I disappointed last night. I’m feeling better now. I really hope everyone can make the rescheduled date on Friday.
“Thank you so much for all the trends and lovely messages you guys did for me it really shows how amazing u guys actually are.”
He added: “As I said I’m feeling much better now and I really can’t wait to perform and make it up to everyone later.”
The Tuesday show was due to be the first of three nights One Direction were due to play at the Northern Ireland venue during their On The Road Again tour.
The match between Belfast Giants and Sheffield Steelers will be rescheduled for a later date.
Neil Walker, general manager of the SSE Arena, Belfast, said: “Having assessed all possible options, we can confirm that the cancelled One Direction concert from last night will go ahead this coming Friday night at The SSE Arena, Belfast.
“We are extremely grateful to the Belfast Giants and Sheffield teams and apologise to their fans for the inconvenience caused - we are very grateful to them for their understanding and accommodation of the nearly 10,000 young concert fans who were so devastated by the cancellation last night. We are now looking forward to three great nights of concerts at The SSE Arena, Belfast.”
Mr Walker added: “We apologise again for the inconvenience caused last night and reassure fans that The SSE Arena, Belfast, was only made aware of Liam’s illness just before the band was due to perform.”
Tickets for the cancelled performance will be valid on Friday, with refunds available for those unable to attend the rescheduled show.
Payne’s bandmates tweeted to fans disappointed at missing out on the show.
Styles wrote: “Deepest apologies to everyone at the show tonight in Belfast. Very disappointed, but unfortunately these things happen. We’re very sorry.”
Tomlinson added: “We’re so so sorry for what happened, it was out of our control Lots of love to Liam and thank you for being so understanding.”
Horan said: “So sorry we have had to cancel tonight guys. Unfortunately these things happen... Thank you to all who came down tonight!”
TV presenter Eamonn Holmes aired his dissatisfaction with the situation on Twitter, writing: “I don’t care who was sick in #OneDirection Direction. Rest of them should have had the decency & maturity to appear on stage and explain.”
After One Direction fans reacted to his tweets, he added: “For all of you who can’t read , I didn’t ask for #OneDirection to Sing , I asked for them to Apologise in person to fans who turned up.”
He then replied to another tweet saying: “It’s just a question of taking responsibility and being respectful. That’s all.”
Fan reactions on social media ranged from anger to get well wishes.
One fan questioned it all, asking: “Remember when Howard from Take That broke his ribs and the rest of them went on without him?! Take note #onedirectionbelfast”.
Another wrote: “Not to be selfish but I flew home from uni for this, so kinda hoping for the best tomorrow.. #onedirectionbelfast #GetWellSoonLiam”.
Referring to the scores of heartbroken teens, one fan commented: “I’ve never heard so many hearts break at one time #onedirectionBelfast.”