Carlow facing a level of debt that ‘would keep you awake at night’

Carlow facing a level of debt that ‘would keep you awake at night’
Carlow supporters during the Leinster GAA Football Senior Championship Semi-Final match between Carlow and Laois at Croke Park in 2018. Photo by Daire Brennan/Sportsfile

Carlow GAA operations manager Ronan Dempsey has said the county board is facing a level of debt that “would keep you awake at night”.

Carlow GAA will record losses totalling €400,000 for 2020, Dempsey revealed, a deficit that will take the board many years to recover from.

Dempsey said lost revenue because of crowd restrictions will not prevent Carlow from fielding teams in the inter-county championships, but did state that "we will have to trim the fat" from inter-county preparations.

The concern among county boards that the €185,000 Central Council county operating grant will not be paid to them, as reported in yesterday’s Irish Examiner, is shared by the Carlow official.

County boards receive a €185k grant each year from Croke Park which is separate to the games development and team expenses grants. And while counties were given €80k of their grant allocation earlier in the year, they are in the dark as to whether the remaining €105k will be paid to them given the GAA is also dealing with a major reduction in income. A spokesperson for the GAA was unable to provide confirmation yesterday that the grant would be paid in full this year.

“It is a huge worry that we wouldn’t get the grant because we do have suppliers to pay,” said Dempsey.

“We are looking at somewhere in the region of €400,000 of a deficit. So while the sponsors we have are really good to us, for us to recover that type of debt, it would keep you awake at night. It is the type of debt that you cannot see how you can dig yourself out of.

“Over the last six or seven years, Carlow has been well managed financially, has been brought back from a position of financial concern. We had got ourselves to a position where we would start off each year without carrying huge debt. But now, it is nearly better that we are so busy because if you did stop to think [about it], yeah, it is very worrying as to what our future holds.”

If financial support is forthcoming from Croke Park Dempsey believes it should be means tested to ensure those whose needs are greatest are adequately assisted.

“There will be 32 mouths to feed, plus the GAA family globally. Expecting the GAA to bail everyone out is probably fanciful.

“There's the greater debate that if there are to be bailouts, that they would be structured and means-tested with regards to the haves and have-nots. I think it would be quite clear the larger 'superpowers' would have access to greater funding to keep themselves afloat than we would.”

Such is the debt facing Carlow GAA, the county’s operations manager said “realistic discussions” will have to be had about how much money is pumped into their flagship teams. Leitrim chairman Enda Stenson has suggested inter-county players forego expenses to enable cash-strapped boards make savings, but Dempsey does not agree with players’ expenses being withheld.

“We will have to trim the fat and really look at a very minimalistic approach but still try and give our players the best possible opportunity to perform at the level they have been performing.

“We are probably the only county of our size that compete at the level we do in both codes and give as much credence to both codes as we possibly can from the ground up. That often gets lost. Our hurlers compete in Division 1 and our footballers did rise up in recent years. We don't feel the playing field is level for us as a small county to try and keep to the level where we are. It is kinda seen as, 'sure look, didn't ye do great for a couple of years there, but your place is your place'.

“How would we compete at the same level with such a financial burden coming on top of us? We were hard set to do it as it was. It was cheek by jowl, hand to mouth day by day, week by week. We are always scrimping and saving, and putting suppliers on the long finger.

“We have such loyal suppliers, county-based, that allow us to pay over the course of 12 months rather than on demand. We wouldn't be able to survive if we didn't have their support.

“I couldn't see a situation where Carlow wouldn't field. But in what capacity and what structural form it would take, it would have to be very different [from other years].”

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