It’s never about the money with the GAA and yet it is always the money that generates the greatest debate.

Yesterday’s launch of the Annual report for the twelve months of 2019 had plenty of good news with financial records tumbling in a positive way all around.

The headline figure of €118 million in turnover was up by 11 per cent on 2018 and more than double what it was a mere five years ago.

Another key number is the percentage amount of revenue that goes back by way of distribution to clubs, counties and provinces. 80 is the magic number that is often rolled out to show just how efficient the administration of the sport is and this year it was even better at 84 per cent.

Of course this would be impossible were it not for the amateur status of players and while the 2020 figures for planning purposes between the Gaelic Players Association and the GAA will remain at the level it has been through the most recent three year agreement, there is reference in Tom Ryan’s report as Director General to the fact that talks between the two organisations on a long term deal and well under way and will hopefully be concluded in the coming months.

Overall gate receipts were up by 22 per cent last year to a new high of €36,071,398. The replayed All Ireland Football Final accounted for around half of the increase though attendances at all stages of the Championship were up with an average increase per match of an impressive 2,000 fans.

Finance Director Ger Mulryan was circumspect about whether 2020 can match these figures. It is never possible to bank on a replay and for the first time since 2013 there will be no concerts at Croke Park this year.

That is not a GAA decision but one enforced by the Euro 2020 Football Finals taking up so much capacity across so many cities and forcing touring bands that could fill Croke Park to avoid coming to Europe this summer.

The distribution of GAA revenues is always admirably transparent and this years division of spoils has a balanced look.

It is the top of the pyramid that attracts the most money and it is to the county boards that the greatest sums are sent.  the figure for counties this year is 20 per cent with 12 per cent going to them and to the provincial councils by way of grants.  4 per cent or €3 was given to over 500 clubs to improve their operations and facilities.

Commercial income by way of broadcast rights which are now going into the fourth of a five year term, as well as sponsorship, was up by nearly €500,000 .

There are issues to be addressed, ranging from the cost of inter county teams to that agreement with the Gaelic Players Association and the drawing up a new format for the football Championship but they will be faced from a particularly strong financial footing.

It is also good that amid the numbers there was still room for poetry with the introduction to the review of the Football Championship and Dublin’s historic win beginning

It was the great Muhammad Ali who said that “the man who has no imagination, has no wings.”
Daring to believe, daring to dream and dreaming and believing that the impossible is nothing; and then having the resolve and the commitment to turn that into reality is what helps to make great champions.
It is good that in an era when the spotlight on sports administration has never been brighter that the biggest sporting body in the country is able to tell a good story over a 258 page publication that covers all the bases and does so with a positive outcome.

Coming Up: We go behind the scenes of a County financial operation when we highlight a special event taking place in Derry later this month.

Image Credit: Laszlo Geczo,