gaa talking point | 

GAA Boards will reap a bitter harvest due to overspending on county team training

‘The pubs of Europe were full for the All-Ireland final and there was very little trouble getting tickets for the game.’ Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Sean McGoldrick

STAND by for a barrage of eye popping financial figures coming your way between now and Christmas.

It’s that time of the year when GAA County Boards publish their annual accounts. It is a cast iron certainty the money being spent on preparing senior inter county teams will again be breath taking.

After a pause during the Covid 19 pandemic this out of control juggernaut is back on full power and heading for a spectacular crash.

Take the Kerry accounts which are already in the public domain. Nobody is suggesting the Kerry County Board will go out of business any time soon.

But as arguably the GAA’s brand leader in football (even if they did lose this year’s All-Ireland final) they set trends.

The total spend on all Kerry’s inter county teams in 2023 grew from €1,445730 in 2022 to €1,679,852 this year, an increase of almost €234,000.

The cost of running the senior football team was €738,906. And this figure does not include Medical and Physiotherapy expenses which increased from 191,014 in 2022 to €208,4458 this year. It is estimated that at least half of this figure was for the senior team.

Even though gate receipts from the Kerry club championship dropped by €200,000 in 2023 the Board still reported an operating surplus of almost €400,000.

Their total income in 2023 was over €6m, they have €2.8m in cash reserves and though they have bank loans of €1.5m there is no danger of the Kerry County Board needing a Croke Park bail out any time soon.

In the treasurer’s own words, the Board earned a ‘whopping’ €1.3m in commercial income in 2023 Nonetheless, Tom Keane did sound a note of caution.

“Make no mistake about it, we are facing a lot of new challenges on the financial front, and we will once again have to ensure that we are prudent about our choices while still investing in our players and facilities. Over the last five years investment in our players was very important to the board, and we need to keep this up," he said.

Kerry are atypical, of course. The majority of County Board treasurers can only dream about the figures in the Kerry accounts.

The chances of smaller counties ever matching Kerry’s resources are remote though Sligo’s U-20 All-Ireland semi-final win over Kerry this year demonstrated that everything in the GAA does not revolve around money.

Aside from gulf between the richest and the rest in the GAA the Association has a problem over the amount of money being spend on senior team preparations. It is in complete disproportionate to expenditure on everything else bar capital projects.

It is unsustainable but despite warnings from GAA Director General Tom Ryan nobody is listening.

What happening is the GAA equivalent of the Orwellian Korean TV series Squid Game in which only one contestant is left standing after all the rest have been killed.

Over a decade ago the Irish economy crashed, and we are still living with the consequences.

The GAA crash will probably be less spectacular. It will begin when counties start pulling teams from the National Hurling League and the Tailteann Cup because they simply cannot afford to fund training sessions at 5,000 euro a pop.

The GAA hierarchy have repeatedly shouted stop. Nobody has listened.

But as the bible tells us you reap what you sow and the GAA day of reckoning is coming down the track sooner than later.

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