Croke Park chiefs present a GAA in rude health

Croke Park chiefs present a GAA in rude health
Stadium and commercial director Peter McKenna and GAA president John Horan at the launch of the report. Picture: Laszlo Geczo.

The media briefing that accompanies the release of the GAA’s annual accounts can be a nervy time for top brass, a debate over Dublin’s games development funding generally a given at the very least.

This time around, however, the association announced a glowing set of results for 2019 and not a glove was laid upon the four GAA officials sitting at the top table throughout.

From the headline figure of €118m for 2019 GAA revenues, up 11% per cent on 2018 year, to the €73.9m revenue generated specifically by Central Council, ‘a record high’ as it happens, to the €6.5m increase in gate receipts, it was like a new government announcing a suite of tax cuts.

Sure there were some low-lights, like the draw on Croke Park coffers that insurance claims, inter-county team expenses and non-profit making competitions continue to be.

For the record, of the 364 matches organised by central GAA last year, only 42 were actually profitable.

Still, these are relative boom times for the GAA and not even the €1.33m given to Dublin under the heading ‘Games Development’ — just shy of the €1.65m given to all four provincial councils combined — generated much debate.

That was partly due to a slide presented by GAA finance director Ger Mulryan noting the progress they’ve made in increasing the number of full-time coaches outside of Dublin.

There are currently 64 paid GAA coaches in Dublin, the same figure as four years ago, yet in that time the number for the rest of Leinster has increased from 72 to 118. In Belfast, the number in that period has risen from five to 12 while there has been growth generally in all four provinces, increasing the number of coaches overall in the GAA from 307 to 365.

“If we were to pick a number to try to demonstrate the collective of what we give back to the association, at grassroots level, we give €8m back through a player injury scheme, we give €7m back through coaching, 365 coaches across the association, and we give three million back directly to clubs,” said Mulryan.

So there’s 18 million there that we can directly say is going back to the grassroots of the association, not through hand-outs but through initiatives and programs that the individual members of our association get the benefit of.

Another positive to emerge was information regarding the GAA’s turf farm at nearby Naul which is now in full use and supplying sod for the resurfacing of Croke Park when required.

“There are one or two clubs and county boards that we supply turf to as well but it’s not (a commercial activity),” said GAA stadium and commercial director Peter McKenna, who previously sourced replacement turf from the UK.

“That fact is it gives us the security that we don’t have to rely on the transport of a pitch over such a long distance. One of the real advantages is that because it grows so close to where Croke Park is, the colour of the grass, the depth of the roots, everything is very similar to what we have already in situ so it knits together far quicker than when you’re importing it.”

With no concerts currently booked in for Croke Park this summer, the pitch will remain in place all year though will be relaid after the All-Ireland finals.

McKenna explained that the lack of scheduled concerts is due to the impact of soccer’s Euro 2020 finals.

“The bands are not travelling,” said McKenna.

The big touring caravans are not doing Europe because the 2020 Euros have sucked up so many cities. It’s not just in one venue, it’s in 20 or 21 different cities. So that has taken the value of a European tour off the big bands.

A strong trading year by Croke Park Ltd which dropped €10.5m into GAA coffers, the money-spinning All-Ireland football final replay between Dublin and Kerry, worth around €3m, an increase in ticket prices and also a general spike in attendances, all contributed to the positive bottom line figure for 2019.

GAA chief Tom Ryan on…

  • NEW FOOTBALL RULES: “I am satisfied that no single rule change on its own will fundamentally alter the game or how it is played. But I believe too that all three combined will nudge the game in a more expansive direction. This is what was demanded of us in recent years. The changes in the rules are timely and valid. They applied for the majority of matches last year, and successfully so. This is not a leap into the unknown. We don’t need to fear change.”
  • SECOND TIER FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP: “I believe it will work. I hope we all give it a chance. The Association has obligations to deliver upon in terms of promotion and profile, and we will do so. I hope in turn that we all give thecompetition a fair chance to succeed.”
  • FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP PROPOSALS: "The goal is twofold: To arrive at an optimal inter-county structure for its own sake of course, but also to deliver an increased number of weekends dedicated solely to the club game. This will involve difficult choices. Without change to the current structures and timings, the space available for our clubs cannot be increased. These choices will be made at a SpecialCongress in September.”
  • GPA: “While there are clearly some differences in emphasis between the GPA and ourselves, the end goal for us all remains broadly the same. That means an agreement that helps protect the amateur status into the future and allows for a well-funded players body to provide services for inter-county players.”
  • REFEREES: “The divergence in rules between hurling and football is beginning to pose a challenge for club referees. I know that some of the rules of hurling and football have to be quite different. Nevertheless, there is an unintended consequence. Feedback from the substantial number of referees who officiate in both codes tells us that it is becoming increasingly difficult to switch from one code to the other and from one game to the next. Whatever about the merits of rule changes in their own right, we have to make sure that we do not compromise the recruitment and retention of referees.”
  • PLAYER INSURANCE/INJURIES: “I am worried about the increasing numbers of hip surgeries required by players in the 20-26 age bracket. Over-training is widely reported to be a contributory factor, so continued education amongst players and mentors is clearly required in this area to safeguard players.”

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