GAA's county boards brace for 85% loss in gate receipts

The Cork county board will lose out on €353k in gate receipts for the period of club activity between late July and the end of August
GAA's county boards brace for 85% loss in gate receipts
Supporters look on through a fence from outside the ground during the Tipperary County Senior Hurling Championship Group 4 Round 1 match between Toomevara and Borris-Ileigh at McDonagh Park in Nenagh. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

County boards across the country are bracing themselves for an 85% loss in gate receipts as a result of the Government decision to retain crowd restrictions at 200 people for outdoor events.

With the bulk of club championship games in each county to be run off this month, Tuesday’s decision not to increase crowd sizes has left county chairmen and treasurers forecasting colossal falls in gate receipts and sizable end of year deficits.

Kerry treasurer Tom Keane has said county boards staring down the barrel of a 75-85% loss in gate receipts will need financial assistance from Croke Park. Keane reckons Kerry’s gate receipts income will fall by approximately €400,000 this year.

A prediction today from inside the Galway county board is that their gate receipts total for 2020 will struggle to hit €200,000, a drop of more than three-quarters of a million euro on last year.

The €977k Galway GAA collected in gate receipts last year was the largest total of any county. But the second delay in entering Phase 4 means all three rounds of group games in the county football and hurling championships, as well as the preliminary hurling quarter-finals, will have been played by the time of the next crowd size review on August 31.

In Cork, five of the six rounds of group stage action across hurling and football will be completed before the next potential increase in the number of people permitted into games.

Cork was one of the counties whose board deliberately held off commencing their county championship program until after the expected entry to Phase 4 on July 20.

That each of the 147 games across the opening six weekends of action will now be watched by 80 rather than 380 spectators means the Cork county board will lose out on €353k in gate receipts for the period of club activity between late July and the end of August.

Cork and Galway recorded end of year deficits totalling €559k and €261k respectively in 2019. The near wipeout of their gate receipts income for this year has made it inevitable that both counties will again shoulder large deficits heading into the 2021 financial year.

Kerry county board treasurer Tom Keane predicts their gate receipts total for this year will be “somewhere around €100k”, down from €513k in 2019.

Twelve of the 15 games in the Kerry senior football championship will be played while the limit on outdoor gatherings stands at 200. And there is no guarantee that the semi-finals and final of the Kerry SFC will have larger crowds in attendance.

Keane said Kerry county board is potentially looking at an end of year deficit between €250-300k.

“While we understand why the crowd restrictions are in place and how it is so important that we protect the health of everyone, the crowd restrictions are going to impact us somewhere in the region of €400k.

“At the moment, you are limited to 80 tickets per game, at €8 per ticket. €640 is all you can bring in from a game, whereas we are used to bringing in a couple of thousand from every match. From chatting to other treasurers, my understanding is that the average loss in gate receipts by comparison with previous years will be between 75-85%.”

Keane continued: “Our national league share for 2020 will be down, our commercial income is down, and our fundraising is down.

“It is inevitable that there will be a major loss [in income]. You’ll also have team expenses that you didn’t have in previous years, such as three team buses for an away game, as opposed to the usual one, because of social distancing requirements, or extra hotel rooms to ensure one player per room as opposed to two per room.”

Wexford and Waterford are two counties whose hurling championships will be concluded before the end of this month, meaning the attendance at both county senior finals will be capped at 200.

But Wexford chairman Derek Kent believes their gate receipts decrease will not be as significant as in Cork, Galway, or Kerry.

Wexford’s gate income for 2019 was €453k.

Despite current restrictions, Kent reckons they could still take in €300k this year between gates and live streaming subscriptions.

He said the executive would not be changing the date of their senior hurling decider, fixed for later this month, to a Sunday in September in the hope that crowd limits will have increased by then.

“We don’t know if there will be a crowd increase next month. I can’t plan our championship on hearsay. We plan our championships for our players and our clubs, and will play them when we said we are going to play them. I am not going to shimmy them around to suit the financial purses or waiting on the Government to make an announcement.”

Kent added: “We were fortunate that our season ticket holders were loyal and only 3% requested a refund. We have approximately €120,000 of revenue from season tickets.

“On top of that, our live streaming is going extremely well. The crowd restrictions are what they are and we are just trying to make the best of the situation we find ourselves in.”

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