Super 8 All-Ireland does not promise financial ‘bonanza’, says GAA director

The forthcoming Super 8 All-Ireland senior football championship quarter-final stages do not promise a financial “bonanza”, insisted GAA director of finance Tom Ryan.

Super 8 All-Ireland does not promise financial ‘bonanza’, says GAA director

After the GAA yesterday reported both gate receipts and attendances were up across the board in 2017, there will be eight extra matches at the business end of the SFC as well as 12 more provincial hurling games.

However, Ryan isn’t wholly convinced the GAA stand to reap a major windfall from the Super 8, which will see eight teams play three times, the first time in Croke Park and then one home and one away match.

While he fully expects total attendances to improve, he warns: “I think it will grow, but when we sat down to do our budget for the year — it’s interesting when you look at it, the games are going to come thick and fast this summer.

"And even the most committed of patrons will have a job to get to every game once it gets to the quarter-final stage of things. So it’ll be an increase but I don’t think it is going to be the bonanza that, at first glance, looking at the number of games involved that we might have expected. But it should certainly be positive.”

The GAA in 2017 enjoyed significant jumps in year-on-year gate receipts and All-Ireland series attendance, which improved total revenue by €5 million to €65m.

Total gate receipts reached €34.456m, almost €5m more than 2016 – €16.5m in the football championship (€15m in 2016) and €10.7m in the hurling championship, €8.5m two years ago. Gate receipts represented 52% of the GAA’s total revenue.

Mayo’s run from the qualifiers and quarter-final and semi-final replays against Roscommon and Kerry respectively contributed to the increase in football as well as the admission increase for All-Ireland quarter and semi-finals in both codes.

The bump in the hurling championship was attributed to the separate All-Ireland quarter-finals in Páirc Uí Chaoimh and the resurgence of Cork and Wexford.

Total non-provincial All-Ireland championship attendances jumped by 24% (786,242 to 977,523), an average of 21,723 compared to 17,472 in 2016.

The average crowd for an All-Ireland series hurling game was again larger than the equivalent in football.

Showing an increase of 29%, the average crowd in hurling was 29,075 last season from 22,456 the year before compared to 19,049 in football, which was 15,660 in 2016.

Last year, Ryan expressed concern about how attendances were moving but was delighted to confirm the turnaround this year. On the hurling championship front, he argued Cork’s return to success helped:

“Cork in particular made a big difference and would be good for hurling and good for the numbers I’ll be reporting to you if they continue that trend.

"You saw the hype that surrounded the match down in Waterford and having to delay the throw-in because of the Wexford support – so it’s the same thing there. I think there are a few other sleeping giant counties that maybe if they were to emerge and become stronger that would help our figures too.”

The Allianz Leagues brought in €5.2m, up €500,000 from 2016. The football competition contributed €3.2m (€2.8 in ’16) and the hurling league €2m (€1.9m in ’16).

Meanwhile, Dublin’s games development grants dropped by approximately €165,000 to €1.298m, Meath next best with €267,046 and Cork third, receiving €249,000.

Ryan confirmed Dublin’s drop was part of the funding equalisation project the GAA have commenced.

“I don’t want to mention a specific amount and the one thing I would say is it’s not a unilateral process. Dublin are conscious of their responsibilities as every other county. We sit down with every county at the start of the year and try and work out a programme and where we’re going to go funding-wise with them.

"I think you’ve a bit of a pattern in recent years and there’ll be a continuation of that but we’ll agree that with Dublin in the first instance.”

GAA commercial and stadium director Peter McKenna warned of the spiralling costs of Dublin having received feedback from those attending Croke Park for business and leisure reasons.

“The availability of hotels and price of hotels becomes a pressing issue. The price of hotels in terms of staging concerts, that is an issue as well.

"I think it’s correcting itself in the market dynamics as such but it’s still not quite right and there is a danger that it becomes expensive and, as a city, it needs to start marketing itself and pushing itself.”

Moving the All-Ireland senior finals to August from 2019 (only the hurling decider is in August this year) presents accommodation challenges, McKenna accepts.

“This year the football will still be in September because of the Papal visit but, yeah, August is a busy time. The sooner there’s a greater number of hotels (the better). If there wasn’t Airbnb the place would come to a stop.”

Bumper fixture schedule won’t result in extra live TV games

The GAA don’t envisage many, if any, extra championship games being shown live on TV this year despite the introduction of the round robin provincial hurling competitions and the Super 8 All-Ireland football quarter-final series.

If RTÉ are in a position to simultaneously televise two games on their terrestrial channels, they will be given the go-ahead — the final two round games in each of the Leinster and Munster SHCs will throw in at the same time as will the last matches in each of the two Super 8 groups. However, if only one can be shown, the other will be broadcast on GAAGo and streamed free on the island of Ireland and as part of the subscription service abroad.

The Munster SHC will involve seven additional matches this year, the Leinster SHC proper five and the All-Ireland SFC eight.

GAA commercial and stadium director Peter McKenna said: “I think it’ll be the same as. What you’ll probably see this year because of having the facility to have live games on RTÉ, on back-to-back channels, we’ll probably look at running some of them on GAAGo so we’ll be able to stream games for the first time, on our own service. That’ll be a new development we’re working on. I think the new championship format is going to be very, very positive.”

In what will be considered a major move towards the GAA creating their own TV channel, McKenna is acutely aware of how the media is transforming. “RTÉ are our joint partners there (with GAAGo), and what we want to make sure of is that people get to see the game. It’s our view that this is the best way of doing it (game streaming). It just shows you the way this market is changing.

“The additional broadcasting has become challenging in a broad number of areas, you can see the rise of Amazon, YouTube and various other sort of (outlets), making games available. I think the fact that we started to invest in this a number of years ago, getting a level of expertise up, puts us in a nice position to use that expertise now and we’ve put ourselves front and foremost in being able to do this ourselves.”

GAA director of finance Tom Ryan added the GAA’s media and sponsorship revenue, which was €18.742m last year and made up 29% of total revenue, is set to rise in 2018.

The GAA don’t envisage many, if any, extra championship games being shown live on TV this year despite the introduction of the round robin provincial hurling competitions and the Super 8 All-Ireland football quarter-final series.

No change in times for football finals

The GAA will not be changing the throw-in times for the Allianz Football League Division 1 and 2 finals on Easter Sunday to avoid a clash with the Leinster-Saracens European Rugby Cup quarter-final.

GAA director general Páraic Duffy yesterday said they had no reason to alter the start times of the matches, which are likely to be 2pm and 4pm as they were last year.

The Leinster-Saracens game was last week confirmed for a 3.30pm kick-off in the Aviva Stadium on April 1.

It will be televised by Sky Sports while TG4 will broadcast the Gaelic football deciders.

The decision is a matter for the Central Competitions Control Committee (CCCC) but, speaking on the matter yesterday, Duffy said simply: “Can’t think of any reason why it wouldn’t be two o’clock and four o’clock.

“We’re not going to change, it hasn’t been raised. I don’t expect that to be changed.”

In their published master fixtures calendar grid for 2018, the CCCC included the kick-off time for the Ireland v Scotland Six Nations game in the Aviva Stadium (2.15pm) on Saturday, March 10.

It was mentioned as a reference point on a weekend where there will be Division 1 hurling quarter-finals as well as finals in Division 2A, 2B, 3A, and 3B.

As per usual, the All-Ireland senior club finals will take place on March 17, the same day as Ireland’s Six Nations finale against England in Twickenham, which has a 2.45pm kick-off time.

The throw-in times for the hurling and football club deciders have yet to be confirmed although it is likely they could take place later in the day.

Last year’s games commenced at 3pm and 5pm respectively.

At 7pm that St Patrick’s Day evening, Kerry face Kildare in their Division 1, Round 6 clash in Austin Stack Park while Cork entertain Clare in Division 2 in Páirc Uí Rinn at the same time.

The GAA will not be changing the throw-in times for the Allianz Football League Division 1 and 2 finals on Easter Sunday to avoid a clash with the Leinster-Saracens European Rugby Cup quarter-final.

GAA bids to tackle rising cost of insurance claims after €12m bill

Some €7m of the €12m in claims against GAA insurance in 2017 did not relate to the actual playing of Gaelic games.

But director of finance Tom Ryan believes the organisation can tackle the growing number of claims.

“First of all, we need to be managing our facilities better in such a way that these claims don’t arise in the first place,” he said.

“Secondly, when the incidents arise we need to respond to them a little bit better so that we’re in a position to mount a defence, and thirdly we need to educate clubs and get the message across to them all the time about risk management.

“We’re doing those three things, it’s a constant communication. What makes it very, very difficult, to be fair about it... the people who are running those facilities are running them on a voluntary basis so they don’t have the luxury of being on the premises all the time.”

Revealing claims have jumped €5m in five years, Ryan continued: “There is also a turnover in terms of officers within clubs and so on so once you’ve done your best to impart that to the current regime in a club over the course of two or three years, those people will change and new people will come on board and so on.

“And then, I suppose, there is always the pressure in clubs all the time to bring in revenue and bring in funds to meet increasing costs of running clubs so that itself creates its own pressure and that creates the momentum and the requirement to stage these kinds of events.”

Croke Park are embarking on a major information drive to ensure clubs and counties are aware of the challenges presented. Ryan would not say if many of the claims are opportunistic.

“It’s costing us money and it’s having an impact on the Association but it would be wrong to ascribe that to anything in particular that clubs or the Association are doing in isolation.

“It’s a societal thing, it’s affecting enterprises of every kind around the country, the cost of claims and the incidences of claims are rising, I suppose, by virtue of the fact that we have the spread that we have. We’re in every parish in every part of the country, we’re not immune to that, we’ll suffer it to the same extent as everyone else.”

Some €7m of the €12m in claims against GAA insurance in 2017 did not relate to the actual playing of Gaelic games.

GAA’s new farmwill supply pitches nationwide

The GAA hope to resurface Croke Park with sods from their own 50-acre pitch farm in Naul next year.

Before Christmas, GAA commercial and stadium director Peter McKenna confirmed the purchase in north Dublin, which cost roughly €700,000.

The land, from which other GAA stadia such as Páirc Uí Chaoimh will be able to source playing turf, was bought as the GAA encountered issues last year in importing from a farm in Lincolnshire and weighed up the potential difficulties Brexit may have with that arrangement.

The sods will be used to replace the playing surface in the likes of Croke Park after concerts. “We also have pitch replacement needed in Cork when they run concerts, and other surfaces across the country so it is very useful for us to have our own facility to do that. The pitches in Abbotstown will be due a replacement on a lot more regular basis as well,” McKenna said.

He envisages the GAA generating revenue from the project by selling playing turf abroad. “There is no reason when it comes to the time, that we won’t be able to export the pitches. What we have here, climatically, is a far better set-up than a lot of Europe, where it is frosty and frozen. But that is down the line.”

The likes of Dublin manager Jim Gavin have criticised the state of the Croke Park pitchfollowing concerts — Gavin questioned why gigs should be held there at all during the championship. McKenna acknowledged the negative comments but insisted the move wasn’t predicated by such remarks.

“It’s not in response directly to the criticism. We measure the pitch and the pitchcharacteristics on a continuous basis so, yeah, I would have been happy if not ecstatic with the way the pitch was after the concerts last year.

“The real issue came that there was a very... I wouldn’t say severe... but there was a drought in the UK when we got the pitches in early spring so it meant the ideal type of surface we wanted wasn’t available. It was just too flimsy. That’s just something you couldn’t really contemplate until the weather happens.

“So you add to that the risk of harvesting out there, shipping it, taking it across the sea, to reduce the time but also to have it growing closer to us and have a lot more pitches growing, that takes that risk away.”

The GAA hope to resurface Croke Park with sods from their own 50-acre pitch farm in Naul next year.

More in this section

Sport
Newsletter

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up

HOME DELIVERY SERVICE

Have the Irish Examiner delivered to your door. No delivery charge. Just pay the cover price.