Tracey Kennedy: Cork GAA only focused on Páirc Uí Chaoimh ‘end debt’

Tracey Kennedy: Cork GAA only focused on Páirc Uí Chaoimh ‘end debt’
GAA director general Tom Ryan delivered his annual financial report at Croke Park on Tuesday, where he referred to the responsibility on Cork to work their way out of their €20m Páirc Uí Chaoimh debt. Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile.

Cork GAA chairperson Tracey Kennedy has said the board are only focused on the ‘end debt’ incurred by the costs attributed to the reconstruction of Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

As GAA director general Tom Ryan said on Tuesday, the stadium bill is likely to be approximately €96m and the current debt is in excess of €30m, Kennedy reiterated Ryan’s point that the amount owed is expected to drop significantly, possibly by €10m to €20m.

“There wouldn’t be anything in Tom’s report that wouldn’t be in our own accounts. He is probably getting closer to a ballpark figure about what the end debt might be than anyone has so far but he still points out it is still in the region of (€96m). There are still a number of variables that will impact the end debt.

“Where debate rises is the debt and the end debt because obviously there are still a significant number of variables out there in terms of the end debt. For us, we’re looking at the end debt and how that is going to be managed.”

Proceeds from the sale of land close to Delanys GAA club in Kilbarry on the north side of the city will go towards servicing the debt while negotiations concerning contracts associated to the rebuild of Páirc Uí Chaoimh are also expected to help alleviate the financial burden.

Regarding Kilbarry, Kennedy said: “There are obviously commercial sensitivities around these issues so I can’t say a whole lot on it except that the sale of Kilbarry will proceed. It’s a process that is in progress and the stadium board is managing that.”

In his annual report, Ryan devoted two pages to the stadium debt, entitled “Páirc Uí Chaoimh: An Ongoing Challenge”.

He opened the passage by chronicling how Cork GAA had been too ambitious with their projected income streams such as the price put on the land in Kilbarry and long-term premium seats.

Ryan also intimated that Central Council, who provided €20m to Cork in the form of a grant, didn’t perform enough checks and balances.

“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.

However, Ryan chose not to point fingers at any individuals when it came to apportioning blame.

“I think it’s a collective thing. We have an opportunity now for three or four projects going forward. We have significant projects to undertake in another four-county grounds over the course of the next few years so it’s really important the things that we could have done better in Cork are done better this time around.

“I don’t think it’s the time nor the place, nor is it my place to point individual mea culpas. The job is to make sure that whatever we need to learn out of that, we learn and we make sure we do not embark upon the same thing again.”

Asked if Croke Park had advised Cork how to pay back the money, Ryan said he was “kind of agnostic”.

He explained: “There is significant work going into a business plan at the moment and there is significant work going into relaunching fundraising initiatives and the county draw and so on down there. We’re not going to impose particular courses of action upon Cork, they’re well able to run their own affairs but we’ll be a very interested party and we’d be a party with them in the thing.”

Kennedy reiterated that Cork doesn’t intend putting the burden on their clubs by way of levies. “We have said a number of times that club levies is not a route we want to go down. In fairness to Croke Park, they are not prescribing any particular way that we meet our commitments.

Launch Of The GAA Annual Report, Croke Park, Dublin 11/2/2020 Director of Finance Ger Mulryan, Ard Stiurthoir Tom Ryan, Uachtaran John Horan, Stadium and Commercial Director Peter McKenna. Credit ©INPHO/Laszlo Geczo.
Launch Of The GAA Annual Report, Croke Park, Dublin 11/2/2020 Director of Finance Ger Mulryan, Ard Stiurthoir Tom Ryan, Uachtaran John Horan, Stadium and Commercial Director Peter McKenna. Credit ©INPHO/Laszlo Geczo.

“As Tom has noted in his report, there is work going on at present and is fairly advanced at this stage in terms of refining our fundraising processes and those will cover all aspects of Cork GAA.

“Croke Park have been very supportive. As long as we can meet our commitments, it’s up to us to find a way to do that. We intend to meet our commitments.”

Several times in the report and at Tuesday’s press briefing Ryan mentioned the responsibility on Cork to work their way out of the debt.

Kennedy has no issue with that stance. “It’s our stadium. Croke Park have been immensely supportive at a critical time and provided funding.

“But it would always be intended that the stadium would return to Cork’s responsibility.

We want to be in control of our processes. There are some excellent people on our stadium board who are all playing an integral part in our future, people like Michael O’Flynn and John Mullins as well as the various Croke Park representatives.

Ryan stated that Croke Park were keen not to let the debt damaged the county’s GAA activities.

“I suppose the challenge for us is to ensure that it doesn’t impact negatively on Cork GAA as well because it’s in all our interests that Cork GAA is flourishing on the field too but the way we have it structured, that debt is sealed off within Cork GAA.

“Cork are aware of the challenges ahead, they’re aware of their responsibilities. I have no doubt that they’ll live up to them.”

Key financial figures for 2019

  • €118m – Overall revenue up 11 percent. This takes into account Central Council, Croke Park Ltd, insurance fund, injury fund and other small companies/units of the GAA.
  • €73.9m – Central Council revenue, up €10.3m on 2018.
  • €13.5m – Investment in Games Development.
  • €1.5m – People that attended 2019 leagues and All-Ireland championships, a growth of five percent.
  • €36.1m – Gate receipts, up by €6.5m.
  • €1.48m – Total attendance at league and Championship games, up 5 percent.
  • 19,000 – Average attendance per (All-Ireland series) Championship game in 2019, up 2,000.
  • €10.5m – Distribution from Croke Park Stadium, up 31 percent.
  • €18.2m & €10.5m – Football and hurling championship gate receipts respectively. Football is up €5.5m and hurling is up €300,000.
  • 42 – The number of games that turned a profit from the 364 that were put on by central GAA in 2019
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