Croke Park not doing enough for counties - Mayo secretary

Croke Park not doing enough for counties - Mayo secretary
Steward Dan Hayes, wears a visor, as he scans a spectator's ticket prior to the Cork County Premier Senior Football Championship Group C Round 1 match between Valley Rovers and Nemo Rangers at Cloughduv GAA grounds in Cloughduv, Cork. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Mayo GAA secretary Dermot Butler has criticised the lack of support from Croke Park for cash-strapped county boards.

As counties stare down the barrel of a 85% drop in gate receipts from last year (Mayo’s 2019 return was over €300,000 and their Club+ season ticket provided over another €100,000), Butler is concerned by the relative silence from central GAA authorities.

It will be October before the GAA discover their slice the €40 million of the Government’s resilience fund for them, the FAI and IRFU. A separate €15m fund has been made available for clubs at risk of closing. The tendering process began last week and will conclude next month.

However, Butler believes the promise of those funds should allow Croke Park to engage with the various units. “There is money to be given to Croke Park by the Government as a relief fund. We have heard very little from Croke Park about how they are going to disperse that down to the clubs. If they did that, it might leave the clubs in a slightly better position.

“Clubs can’t fundraise right now and if clubs can’t fundraise they can’t pay their dues to the county boards. If the county boards don’t have any funds coming in, well then there are problems. It’s like a vicious circle. Croke Park will be given a tranche of money from the Government and we have heard nothing from them, which is very disappointing.”

After the GAA confirmed on Tuesday that they would be refunding a third of the season ticket price cost (€40) to holders, county boards are facing major difficulties with their own loyalty schemes.

“The provincial councils and Croke Park always talk about the money that we owe them,” remarks Butler. “They’re very slow in coming back the other way. There is not a county board or a club in the country that isn’t strapped for cash.

“To come out with a comment that we’re going to refund all the season ticket holders and then it’s up to each individual county board to sort out their Club+ season tickets out, that’s not a fair answer.

“I’ve got numerous emails and phone calls the last day or two from people wondering when they are going to get their money back. I can’t answer them because we haven’t decided ourselves. It’s putting county boards in a very unfair position.”

While over 3,000 Mayo supporters are GAA season ticket holders, another 1,300 are Cáirde Mhaigh Eo Club+ season ticket subscribers. Established in 2012, the annual fee is €200, which incorporates the national season ticket entitlements as well as all club championship games at all grades in the county coupled with a discount of €5 on all matches in the All-Ireland series including the qualifiers where Mayo are involved.

Butler admits Mayo would currently struggle to refund supporters. “We will likely be having a meeting over the weekend. We’re honouring the Club+ season ticket holders for the second round of the football championships this weekend so that they gain free access to the games.

“But we will have to review it going forward. The problem is where do we get the money from to repay the Club+ season ticket holders. It would cost us over €100,000. We certainly don’t have money going around. To go repaying that would be huge. We haven’t got two ha’pennies to rub together and we’re not alone in that; every county is the same.”

Butler knows Mayo supporters don’t want to see the board in financial difficulty and the idea of reducing the 2021 subscription to compensate for this year could be looked at. “That would be an option but you’re only robbing Peter to pay Paul that way. There’s not a lot that can be done. As regards paying money back, we didn’t think we would have to do that and doing that we’d only be digging a bigger hole for ourselves and as I said we’re not alone in that.”

Dublin’s Parnell Park season ticket is also heavily subscribed and holders were informed at the start of July that the renewal of it in 2020 would be postponed until further notice.

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