The GAA Annual report and Accounts published last week paints a stark picture of the impact that Covid-19 has had on the association in financial terms.
It also presents a background to the pressures that were ever-present during a year in which the community and collective side of the association came to be such an important part of how the country maintained its balance.
Over the coming days, we are continuing to taking a look at different elements from within the report, the most comprehensive inside guide to how sport operates at so many levels across Irish society.
Today we turn our attention towards the distribution of money to each of the counties around the country.
Many headlines and a substantial degree of media commentary, both mainstream and social, has focused on the dominance of Dublin and the continued high level of funding that goes towards the county in terms of games development.
We will come to that later in the week but for most of those running County Boards the greater challenge facing them is not on narrowing the gap to a potential All Ireland but on keeping the show on the road.
A survey of County Board chairs conducted by The Irish Independent has revealed that finding the money to run their individual operations is far and away their greatest concern.
Director General Tom Ryan writing in his commentary on the year confirmed that
16 Counties Reporting Losses
“Half of our County Committees – 16 in total – reported losses for the year ended 31st October 2020. Combined, our counties have posted losses of over €4m for 2020. With the public health restrictions still in place and looking that they will be for some time ahead, the situation for our counties and clubs looks bleak for 2021. ”
“In this context any planned capital or development works should only be undertaken if 100% funding is secured and in place prior to commencement of works and a strong repayment capacity is in place for any borrowings. A prudent approach should be taken to planning any new works to be undertaken.”
“All grant aid from Central Council has been put on hold and will remain on hold for the foreseeable future. The Central Council Development Loan Fund is currently closed to new applicants although the fund remains open to the taking in of new deposits. The current interest rate payable on such deposits remains at 1.9%.”
The closing date for Sports Capital projects is coming up quickly and many clubs will have prepared their plans for individual developments but the pressures and uncertainty of Covid means that many of these projects may yet be delayed in terms of drawdown, once they are approved.
Ryan suggests that clubs that do undertake development will be able to apply for retrospective grant funding while recognising that “clubs cannot stand still.”
The amount of money spent on the preparation of county teams has long been a concern at Croke Park but unless a spending cap is introduced there will always be the fear at each individual county that their neighbours and rivals are spending more and giving their county a better chance.
“Despite a reduced schedule of activity for the year ended 31st October 2020 for the inter-county game, a total of €18.8m was spent in the year on preparing county teams.,” wrote Ryan.
“Admittedly this represents a reduction from €29.7m in 2019 but it is still a sizeable resource commitment. The reduction was delivered through the truncated inter-county season along with a number of new and novel measures.”
“We saw the introduction of maximum panel sizes of 32, and a limit to three training sessions per week. We introduced a centralised system of player expenses management to facilitate better analysis and more timely payment. Crucially too, our players all agreed to a reduction in the player mileage rates which it is important to acknowledge.”
“In short, everybody played a part when called upon. Similar discipline will be required again in 2021, I suspect, as the Pandemic persists. Covid aside, we should build on the lessons of 2020 in order to derive a long-term sustainable structure and scale for the resourcing of the inter-county game. The next step, perhaps, is to streamline the scale of backroom expertise enlisted by counties. Consider too, rebalancing our demands on players’ time – away from training and in favour of matches.”
“Last year we were in the unfortunate position of needing state assistance to underwrite our games. We were extremely grateful for that help – but going forward we need to help ourselves too. That means greater discipline needs to be applied to our costs both centrally and locally, and now more than ever.”
Most of the County Chairs interviewed by the Independent would be grateful for restraint in terms of the professional back up services that have grown around inter-county teams. The players and in particular the managers though will resist any pulling back on the basis that such support systems are needed to maintain the appeal of the games to elite players who take nothing by way of salary from the sports.
In total the distribution to counties last year amounted to €15,982,950. This was divided among the 32 counties in Ireland, New York, London, Lancashire and Warwickshire.
€2,040,793 (excluding the provincial and overseas grants) of this was in Capital grants with €1.3 million of that going to Cork, and €406,582 to Antrim.
Each county gets a basic brant of €130,000 and a universal operating grant of €30,000.
Competition distributions, team and player expenses are based on the performance of inter-county teams and the time they last in their competitions. Galway received the most from this with €239,606, followed by Dublin with €205,011, Cork on €172,668 and Limerick on €166,937. Leitrim got the smallest payout in these categories with 72,760.
The largest element of the country distributions is in the area of games development where Dublin dominated with an income of €745,695, followed by Antrim with €208,916 and Cork with €134,200. Down and Fermanagh propped up the list with funding of €33,542. We will return to this subject in a later look at the figures in detail.
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