The National Ploughing Championships recorded combined losses of €1.25m during two pandemic-hit years when the event was cancelled and is expecting a loss again this year despite a return of the event in September.
New accounts filed by The National Ploughing Association of Ireland show the company last year recorded pre-tax losses of €600,353 when the event was cancelled for a second year running due to Covid-19.
The 2021 loss followed the NPAI recording losses of €656,240 in 2020.
The cancellations decimated the association’s revenues across 2021 and 2020.
In the year 12 months to the end of January 2022, the association recorded revenues of €105,219 and this followed revenues of €90,990 in 2020.
In 2019, the Ploughing Association recorded revenues of €5.6m after 297,000 people attended the 88th National Ploughing Championships at Ballintrane, Fenagh, Co Carlow.
Commenting on the 2021 financial performance, NPAI assistant managing director Anna Marie McHugh said: “The losses are what they are — the National Ploughing Association is a national voluntary association limited by guarantee — we have no shareholders and we are self-funding — we don’t receive any Government grants to run the event.”
Last year, the association’s administrative expenses stood at €1.1m and Ms McHugh said: “During Covid, we still had to run the national association and support our club and county ploughing associations.”
Ms McHugh said one national ploughing championship costs in the region of €6m to €7m to stage.
The loss last year reduced the association’s accumulated profits from €12.3m to €11.7m.
“The NPA has always endeavoured to have enough reserves to run one, maybe two events. This rainy day fund had to be tapped into during Covid and that is what it was for.
Ms McHugh said the Covid pandemic “had a massive financial impact on the NPA as we were not eligible for the 'events industry' grants which would really have helped when the association had absolutely no revenue for almost three years.”
She said the association was eligible for the Wage Subsidy Scheme “so we managed to keep all our staff which was massively important to the Association as our work is quite specialised”.
The association’s losses last year would have been far higher but for ‘other operating income’ of €545,695 that included €391,171 profit on the sale of investments, wage subsidy scheme payments of €79,524 and a Government grant of €75,000.
The other operating income was offset by a non-cash loss in value of €165,898 in investments.
Ms McHugh said: “We are very cognisant of the losses — of course — it’s a lot of money and we are endeavouring to save costs wherever we can this year without impacting at all on the “event” but we have the reserves and they are being used to produce the ploughing experience exactly the same as we have done over the years.”
This year’s Ploughing Championships are to take place at Ratheniska, Co Laois on September 20, 21 and 22n. The association is expecting 300,000 visitors over the three days.
“Honestly we are absolutely delighted with the way the event is shaping up — we had no idea how our exhibitors and patrons would respond to the return of the event after a full three-year gap.
However, Ms McHugh does not expect the association to return to profit this year. "I would not anticipate that the Ploughing Championships will make a profit this year — hosting the world contest adds costs in the region of €1.5m and there is no real financial return on that — obviously there is a massive status associated and it is brilliant for tourism but no financial gain for the national ploughing.
She said: “Also the NPA did add 15% to the cost of exhibits this year in anticipation of increased costs of running event but since those rates were set in February, rates across the board for everything has skyrocketed and inflation has just soared — our costs this year will definitely exceed our expenses even with the bumper event that this year is shaping up to be.”
Ms McHugh said: "All that said, it is never about profit for the NPA — as I say we are a national voluntary association and if the event breaks even the board is satisfied.”