Revealed: Cork GAA's debt for Páirc Uí Chaoimh stands at €30m

Cork GAA is facing a current Páirc Uí Chaoimh debt of around €30 million, GAA director general Tom Ryan has confirmed.

Revealed: Cork GAA's debt for Páirc Uí Chaoimh stands at €30m

In his annual report published today, Ryan devotes two pages to the difficulties financing the redevelopment of the stadium and notes “an ultimate cost of €96m is reliably projected”, almost €20m more than originally envisaged and €10m more than suggested by Cork officials in 2018.

Entitled “Páirc Uí Chaoimh: An Ongoing Challenge”, the former GAA director of finance reveals Cork received a €10m loan from Central Council and notes that Central Council’s policy of giving monies to such projects up-front will no longer be the case.

On several occasions in his report, Ryan underlines that the debt is Cork’s to tackle while explaining the €10m loan was required on top of a bank loan, which was signed by the Cork County Board, the Páirc Uí Chaoimh Stadium company, and the Croke Park Stadium.

Including that €10m loan from Croke Park, Cork GAA is facing €30m in repayment charges, but the sale of assets and contractual renegotiations will take care of around €10m of that.

Ryan explains: “Bank borrowings for the project currently stand at €21.5m. There is also a debt owed to Croke Park of €10m. The anticipated resolution of various ongoing negotiations and the sale of assets will leave an underlying long-term debt in the region of €20m. These loans are recorded in the accounts of Cork County Board and the primary responsibility for repayment rests with Cork and the Páirc Uí Chaoimh stadium.

It must be acknowledged that debt repayment of this scale will prove to be very challenging for both the Cork County Committee and its Páirc Uí Chaoimh stadium company subsidiary. All avenues will have to be explored to resolve matters.

“The wider Association expects and knows that Cork GAA and its proud club base fully respects the gravity of the financial problem now facing them. There is a clear and simple expectation that Cork will face this challenge head-on and deal with it.

“I know that Cork does realise the scale of the issue and does accept its role in resolving it. I am encouraged to report that an eminent and capable board is in place in the stadium to guide it.

“A coordinated, forward-looking business plan to deal with the likely funding difficulties is in preparation. Restructuring of Cork’s finances and fundraising has begun. Repayment schedules have been agreed and repayments have in fact commenced.

Revealed: Cork GAA's debt for Páirc Uí Chaoimh stands at €30m

“Other counties have faced similar challenges before. They have all faced up to their responsibilities and, with guidance, have emerged to good financial standing. As Cork honour their commitments and meet their repayments, as I am sure they will, then the road ahead can be navigated safely. A healthy Cork GAA is vital for the wellbeing of the Association as a whole.”

However, Ryan adds that the GAA at central level have to perform more checks and balances before releasing funding for future capital plans. “Páirc Uí Chaoimh is a magnificent stadium and will be an important asset to the Association, both locally and nationally for many years to come. It is a ground of which we should all be proud. A further important legacy of the project should be that crucial lessons are learned and that we change how future capital projects are managed.

Further projects must be controlled centrally with appropriate oversight. We must engage professional project management expertise. Central Council funding must only be issued proportionately with progress, rather than up front. Projects can only be permitted to start when all the funding is in place, and not proceed contingent upon future income.

“These measures, and more, are pertinent today as we contemplate improvements to a number of other grounds around the country.”

Páirc Uí Chaoimh’s audited financial statements will be published in March. Ryan highlights the pitch problems, under-subscription of 10-year premium seats and overvalued land intended to be sold to fund part of the build cost were significant reasons behind the increased costs. “Project costs escalated and budgetary control proved inadequate,” he notes.

Páirc Uí Chaoimh: Cost timeline

Revealed: Cork GAA's debt for Páirc Uí Chaoimh stands at €30m

2014: April: Planning permission granted by Cork City Council for €70m Páirc Uí Chaoimh redevelopment.

May: Government grants €30m for the regeneration project.

November: GAA confirms €20m contribution to new Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

2015: November: Club delegates are told at a special county board meeting the total cost of redevelopment is likely to exceed €78m. The rise in cost from the originally projected €70m is put down to increased construction costs after a prolonged recession, the implementation of a sprinkler system, extra piling and the relocation of floodlights.

2017: June: Then Cork County Board chairman Ger Lane, in an Irish Examiner interview, refuses to comment on speculation the cost of the project has increased towards the €85m mark.

July: First game is played at the redeveloped ground, a Cork Premier IHC match between Blarney and Valley Rovers.

December: Ger Lane confirms to the Irish Examiner the final bill for redevelopment will run over €86m, €16m above the estimated cost when contractors were appointed to the project. LED floodlighting, extra terracing and improved turnstiles contributed to this latest cost excess.

2018: December 11: Frank Murphy’s final report as Cork county board secretary notes the commercial aspects of Páirc Uí Chaoimh will be run by Croke Park for a period of three years.

December 14: Croke Park stadium director Peter McKenna tells the Irish Examiner that “we’re probably close to €110 million as a final cost” for Páirc Uí Chaoimh rebuild. The Croke Park stadium director revealed that it became clear midway through the year that “the amount spent on the stadium way exceeded what people thought”. McKenna also says the Páirc Uí Chaoimh pitch will need to be replaced.

December 15: Cork GAA chairperson Tracey Kennedy informs delegates at annual convention that the board’s audited accounts detailed a spend of €86.5m on the regeneration project.

2019: January: The overall cost of the redevelopment will be somewhere between the quoted figures of €85m and €110m, according to GAA Director General Tom Ryan. He says: “The €110m number is the worst, worse case. There are four key things that are still at issue; one is arbitration with a contractor, there’s a tax question, there are one or two other bits of negotiations on things to be resolved and there’s a significant asset sale, all of which will nudge the cost down towards the number referred to from Cork.”

February 13: Estimated cost of stadium build put at €95.8m. This figure is arrived at following an examination of the figures presented in the audited accounts of Cork county board for the year ended October 31, 2018. This work was carried out by stadium board members Michael O’Flynn and Tom Gray. The cost of laying a new surface is factored into the €95.8m estimate.

February 25: Stadium board agree on full pitch replacement following the conclusion of Munster championships in June.

2020: February 11: Cork GAA's current Páirc Uí Chaoimh debt is around €30 million, GAA director general Tom Ryan reveals. “An ultimate cost of €96m is reliably projected”, he says.

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