GAA director general Páraic Duffy has hit out at the "corporate GAA" characterisation of the organisation.
The expression was last year used by among others Eamon O’Brien, chairman of the Croke Park streets committee, which opposed the Garth Brooks concerts going ahead at GAA HQ, along with the Socialist Workers Party in relation to the Casement Park planning process. In his annual report to Congress, Duffy takes great exception to the portrayal of the organisation.
“Certain commentators, not averse to finding a bandwagon to jump on, and happier with a slogan than serious analysis, got good mileage out of a so-called ‘corporate’ GAA, by which they mean that the priority of the GAA is to make money. This bandwagon, it should be pointed out, was started by some of those opposed to Croke Park concerts. If the charge had any truth in it, it would be a serious matter deserving public discussion.
“But this is an utterly bogus charge, and a non-issue. The GAA is a not-for-profit organisation that generates revenue uniquely in order to fund the association’s activities.
“Some of these commentators seem to consider themselves better, purer GAA members than the rest of us, but it’s easy to act the purist when one has only to talk, as opposed to taking decisions in the real world, where the calls on our revenue from our units are enormous and unending, and where we must compete vigorously to maintain the public’s loyalty to our games.
“Although the facts about GAA revenue sources and funding commitments are easily available to anyone interested in having a genuine debate, it seems that they need restating. Over 80% of GAA income is distributed to clubs, counties and the provinces, and there are the once-off big projects for which we have to find the funding.”
Duffy also rejected suggestions last August’s Croke Park Classic between Central Florida and Penn State was a greedy exercise. “I refute the claim the American football game was part of a simple money-making exercise for pure financial gain. We don’t think that way; we think only in terms of generating income that will go back out to clubs and counties, and that will help us fund projects already decided on.”
He did accept moving the All-Ireland SFC semi-final replay between Kerry and Mayo to Limerick’s Gaelic Grounds from Croke Park as a result of the American football game was unfortunate. “We took a risk that backfired on us, a consequence of what proved to be an overoptimistic assessment of the unlikelihood of a replay.”
At yesterday’s report launch, Duffy insisted there is a false impression given that the GAA could rely solely on gate receipts to fund developments and compete with other sports.
“It must be remembered that the GAA does not have the lucrative revenue sources of international competitions, such as World Cups, available to soccer and rugby in Ireland. Equally, the marketing opportunities that such competitions present to the FAI and IRFU means that the GAA must allocate greater funds to market its games. Croke Park, too, as a concert venue has to compete with other stadiums. And the wider context of all of this is increased competition for what has been, in recent recession years, reduced revenue sources and a big reduction on Government funding.”
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