A leading sports commerce analyst maintains Dublin GAA isn’t “over-funded” by Croke Park and that, if anything, “you could argue that we’re actually being underfunded”.
Rob Hartnett, CEO of Sport for Business, clarified he wasn’t calling for an increase in funding. But he argued that, for example, compared to Roscommon and taken on a pro-rata basis, Dublin actually doesn’t have as many Games Promotion Officers.
Hartnett, a regular media commentator on the relationship between sport and business, also pointed to the price of land in Dublin and the lack of a training centre as other significant drawbacks in the capital.
Dublin has received just shy of €18m in games development grants between 2007 and 2018 with Cork next on the funding list on €1.4m for that period.
“One of the figures that you might look at is that in 2018, 22% of the Games Development budget went to Dublin, which is huge, and people say: ‘They can’t be taking that amount of money’,” Hartnett told Hill 16 Army’s Blue is the Colour podcast.
“But when you think about that, we’ve got about 33% of the population — you could argue that we’re actually being underfunded. Now I’m not going to go there, I’m not going to go there!
“But the amount of money that goes into it has to fund a huge amount of development that goes on. We’ve got, ball-park, around 70 Games Promotion Officers involved in all of the clubs around.
“They’re doing a great job promoting all four of the codes, because that’s the way the club works, it works across all three of the associations.
“Kevin McStay was talking about Roscommon, and he was one of the ones who most recently that brought this up, about how can Roscommon compete with Dublin when they have so much money going at them?
“But on a pro-rata basis, Roscommon have six Games Promotion Officers, but if you look at the population spread between the two counties, again, we should have about 84 or 85, if you were to take pro-rata from where Roscommon is at the moment. So you have to put all of this into perspective.”
The price of land in Dublin has also been a problem for clubs there, as Hartnett outlined. “Back in 2007, I was involved in a committee in Cuala and we were looking to buy — we don’t own any of our pitches, we’re at the behest of Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown to give us our pitches, and good ones that they are — but we put together a committee that was trying to raise money to buy a single plot of land in Glasthule,” he said.
“You could fit one pitch, no clubhouse or anything like that. We raised promises — we didn’t actually have to ask for the cash in the end — of about €5m that we were going to have to pay for this one plot of land. We were laughed at.
“They said: ‘No, sorry, we’ve already got an offer of €10m.’ Thankfully, as things happened, one year later the whole (property) balloon went up and we would have been in huge trouble. But you just can’t buy land in Dublin.”
Hartnett also noted that Dublin, who are favourites to win the All-Ireland football title and to complete a historic five-in-a-row, don’t have an official training centre.
Neighbouring counties Meath, Wicklow, Louth and Kildare all have training centres for their county teams as do Kerry, Tyrone, and Donegal.
“I’ve seen, out in DCU, the facilities Dublin are training in, the base for our ladies footballers, for all of our senior teams, not a patch on what they’ve got down in (Kerry) in the centre of excellence, which was funded with a contribution of a million from the Kerry Group,” he said.
“It’s not a patch on what they’ve got in Monaghan, it’s not a patch on what they’ve got in counties all around the country. Can you imagine what the shouting is going to be like when, and if, we get the Spawell Complex up and running and we’ve actually got the facilities to match those that are available in other counties?”
Hartnett argued that, in the case of Dublin’s football dominance, ‘it all comes down to people’ and the input of key figures like officials John Costello and Tomás Quinn and team manager Jim Gavin, as well as a gifted bunch of players.
“But in the 1970s and 1980s, Kerry were in that same position in football and people, I can assure you, were giving out just as much about Kerry killing the game of football, ‘Sure there’s no excitement, sure Kerry have got this, what are we going to do to stop them? They could be winning for the next 20 years’,” he said.
“There’s an echo which is incredibly loud that runs through history.”