The level of debt facing Cork GAA as a result of the Páirc Uí Chaoimh redevelopment will be €30m, Freemount delegate John O’Flynn has claimed.
The financial difficulties of the Cork County Board dominated discussion at yesterday’s convention, with chairperson Tracey Kennedy revealing that the board’s money woes, on top of the demands of her new posting as a school principal, led her to contemplate stepping down as chair in recent weeks.
The Cork County Board incurred a deficit of €559,000 for 2019, while the separate company accounts of Páirc Uí Chaoimh and Staid Cois Laoi show that the troubled stadium, up to October 31, 2018, recorded losses of €467,000.
The Páirc Uí Chaoimh accounts for 2019, which it is hoped will be furnished to delegates early in the new year, will show further losses.
Kennedy, who told delegates she has had many sleepless nights because of the myriad of issues surrounding the stadium this past year, said Páirc Uí Chaoimh will not be profitable “any time soon”.
The chairperson rejected the assertion of Freemount delegate John O’Flynn that the executive were “burying their heads in the sand” in relation to Páirc Uí Chaoimh finances.
O’Flynn put the level of debt the county board will be left to shoulder as a result of the stadium rebuild at an eye-watering €30m.
“I have gone through the numbers, and we are looking at a debt of about €30m on the stadium,” he told convention.
“How are we going to be able to repay this debt. We are looking at a stadium that is making losses at the moment. Is that going to turnaround any time soon? I am not so sure.
“There was a loss of around €450,000 for the year 2018, but we don’t know how that loss arose. All that can be recalled for in 2018 was that a million euro was promised from the three Ed Sheeran concerts. But we still wound up with a loss of €450,000. I shudder to consider what the position will be for 2019, a year where we had one concert and the stadium was closed for a period of time.
“Apart from the time that Peter McKenna was involved, we have had people managing the stadium that, from what I can see, don’t have the experience.”
Kennedy did agree with O’Flynn’s suggestion of a full county board meeting with the stadium’s board of directors in the new year to provide a full picture of the stadium’s finances. None of the top table at convention, however, were willing to speculate on the potential level of debt facing Cork GAA or the final bill for the stadium redevelopment. The estimated cost of the rebuild remains at €95m.
“I am not going to make any promises as to when the stadium will be profitable. It is not going to be any time soon,” the chairperson remarked.
This is not going to turn around in 12 months. That’s not going to happen. But there is constant work and contact going on in relation to putting in place structures that will bring the stadium forward in a positive way.
In her chairperson’s speech, Kennedy outlined the personal toll Cork’s off-field difficulties had taken on her.
“The last couple of weeks have been incredibly difficult for me, as I struggled to juggle the demands of a new job with the realisation of the scale of our financial challenges, and there is no doubt that during the past week I descended into self-pity, wondering if it would be better for my own mental and physical health if I just walked away from it all. However, that is not what I want to do. I want to take on the many opportunities we have to continue our improvements. I want to stand before you this time next year with Cork GAA in a much better place.
“The stadium project continues to be an extremely frustrating one for all of us. The failure of the pitch earlier this year was a low point, and obviously had a significant impact on the stadium’s capacity to generate revenue.
“However, progress is being made, albeit slowly. We now have a pitch in place on which we can rely, and which opens up many new possibilities to us. We have some fantastic people involved; we are working on new management structures for the stadium; we have relaunched the premium tickets, which are an absolutely vital funding stream; we have at least two big concerts here next year; rugby offers us a possible extra revenue stream; and above all, we must not lose sight of the wonderful asset we have here in the stadium.
“I am confident that, working together, we can deal with our problems in a transparent, effective, and successful manner.”
The appointment of a commercial manager, which will work with both county board and stadium personnel, will be part of the effort to boost Cork GAA coffers.
Carbery chairman Tommy Lyons called on clubs to make a voluntary contribution of either €500 or €1,000 to the board to tackle the debt.
Willie Coleman of Ballinhassig backed the proposal from the floor for delegates to hand back the passes which entitle them to free entry to all Cork club games. “We talk about the elite players, but there is no one talking about the elite delegates and ex-officers. We must lead by example,” said Ring.
Cork GAA CEO Kevin O’Donovan told convention a full review of board spending will be carried out next month.
“We are now trying to pursue an era of high-performance, to get back to Croke Park on a constant basis in both hurling and football, and it cannot be done for peanuts. But we have got to cut our cloth in every daily operation.”