MICHAEL MOYNIHAN: Dublin's financial advantage has echoes in US baseball

Imagine a national sports body at odds with its constituent parts about money.

Specifically? Long-running arguments about fairness or otherwise in the distribution of revenue generated by the sport, about the advantage certain constituent parts have over others because of populations, about the role played by central government in providing facilities to one constituent part — provision that leads once again to accusations of unfair advantage.

The GAA? No, Major League Baseball.

You may have noticed the likes of Dublin football manager Jim Gavin recently in the media, valiantly playing the ‘look, a multimillion-euro facility on our doorstep in the National Sports Campus is hardly an advantage to us’ card, with everyone nodding politely instead of falling down in a faint at his ability to keep a straight face when delivering the line.

Likewise GAA president Aogán Ó Fearghail and director-general Páraic Duffy, who have both been insisting that it won’t become the Dubs’ de facto headquarters.

The cutting-edge sports facility is now being noted as yet another advantage that Dublin have, alongside the vast population, dozens of coaches and huge revenue opportunities on its doorstep. Having noticed this myself — eventually these things sink in — I was reminded of a similar situation across the Atlantic.

In Major League Baseball, the difference in markets can pit a metropolis like New York against a minnow like Oakland or Seattle. Furthermore, a New York team like the Yankees can have a stadium subsidised by tax funds — according to a recent New York Times piece, to the tune of roughly $1 billion — even though it’s a private company (a report looking into the funding of the stadium twisted its old name, The House That (Babe) Ruth Built, for the title of his report: The House That You Built).

If that sounds vaguely familiar, consider the defence one senior Yankee official offered when questioned about the cost to local taxpayers of such vast subvention in the form of bonds issued to pay for the stadium. “The bonds don’t cost the city or the state anything,” said Randy Levine, Yankees president. “It costs federal taxpayers all over the country.”

Hands down at the back: the resemblance to the central funding of the NSC has already been noted. But it’s not all red-in-tooth-and-claw Darwinism in professional baseball; red, maybe, but a completely different shade.

As an example that Croke Park might like to look at, the teams share revenue, for instance, to preserve competitive balance in its leagues (I wish I had the space to explain their concept of competitive balance, but as our old maths book used to say, ‘The proof of this theorem is beyond the capacity of this class’).

In an abbreviated version of how this operates, the teams pay in a certain amount of their local revenue — about 30% — and it’s shared between the teams. Clearly this means some teams are net contributors, and others net beneficiaries. In one year the Yankees paid in over $70m and four smaller teams each got over $30m, for example.

Could this work in the GAA? It’s a system which comes under pressure in baseball, with a complicated extra cost, a further ‘tax’ on the proportion of team payroll over a certain ceiling which big teams can easily pay.

There’s also an underlying economic argument for competitive balance, as that’s what maintains (in theory) interest in fans as ‘small teams’ compete for big prizes. The biggest obstacle to its operation here, however, is the simple fact that those organisations which would have to abide by its rules — the county boards — are usually the single biggest offenders to any sense of financial common sense in the first place.

Killarney on right track with sports facility plan

Visitors to Killarney during the week may have noted the presence of luminaries such as Colm Cooper and James O’Donoghue publicising a fundraising drive for a new facility in the area.

The AIB Schools Fitness Challenge saw 1,400 schoolchildren take part in a combination fun run, competitive race and fundraiser to support a community micro track and floodlit astro turf pitch proposed for the Kerry town. Irish Olympic hopefuls Jessie Barr and Niall Tuohy were also on hand to participate and encourage the kids.

It’s a community project designed to benefit south and east Kerry and the next fundraiser is a run in Killarney in September.

In this corner of the newspaper we tend to focus on top- level sports, but increased participation in sport for schoolchildren in particular is arguably more important for the nation than medals coming home from Rio.

This is the kind of project which deserves your support. See http://killarney10mile.com for details of the next fundraising event.

More pressure down tracks for decision makers

I don’t plan on talking any more about baseball, or New York baseball specifically, but I did clock something that has ramifications for a lot of sports here.

The concept of challenging or reviewing an official’s decision exists in tennis, the NBA and in other sports, but I was unaware until recently most review/challenges in baseball are initiated by the managers of the teams involved.

Furthermore, I was even less aware that those managers are aided in their challenges by a member of staff sitting in an office with a couple of TV monitors or screens offering him all the angles he could wish for as he goes into granular detail on the umpire’s performance.

If he sees an officiating error he picks up a phone and tells the manager, and then it all kicks off.

This is the future, surely. If you think referees in all sports are under pressure now, wait until they get to the stage where they blow a whistle and look at the coach on the sideline, waiting for him to get a phone call to put in a challenge.

(To see more about this, try http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/20/sports/baseball/yankees-replay-guru-ensures-umps-call-em-as-cameras-see-em.html).

Getting up close and personal to the action

Dublin's financial advantage has echoes in US baseball

Cloyne on Saturday night for the opening of the local GAA club’s pitch. A beautiful evening and a game with some bite: what more would you want?

The fourth estate was parked at a pitchside table, and it’s a worthwhile posting every now and again. Being that close to the action only brings home the reality of the encounter that’s missing when you’re 60 yards away in the stand. Mind you, being so close that the backdraft from a Colin Ryan sideline cut swept the programmes off the table was probably a foot or two too close.


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