In his address to GAA Congress, President Liam O’Neill referred to what he described as an inequity in funding to counties. It is a subject he intends to address during his final year in office, writes Nickey Brennan.
It is not clear how he plans to tackle the topic. It is sure to generate plenty of debate at Central Council. It is this body which will ultimately dictate if there is to be a change in how counties are funded from central sources.
The funding of counties gained headlines last week when Carlow chairman, Michael Meaney spoke of a paltry €70 return from their recent Division 2A National Hurling League tie against Down in Dr Cullen Park. Meaney’s comments were understandable. The Carlow public clearly did not turn up to support the county in their quest to return to a higher division.
That was surprising given the profile hurling in Carlow has right now due to the exploits of Mount Leinster Rangers. The chairman contrasted the Carlow attendance and the low financial return with a game in Nowlan Park at the same time.
That tie between Kilkenny and Tipperary drew an attendance of 8,000, thus generating handsome returns. The reality is that the Nowlan Park tie was between two of the games’ greatest rivals, and it was a Division 1A encounter.
After two amazing games at the same venue last year between the counties a big crowd was guaranteed.
While Carlow should have received better support against Down, the reality was the tie generated minimal interest among Carlow followers. I doubt if too many Down supporters were present either.
In the most recent accounts from the GAA, the last National Leagues generated revenue of €2.26 million (football) and €922,000 (hurling). After costs and a percentage to the GAA Injury Fund and Insurance the amounts payable to counties were €1 million (football) and €554,000 (hurling).
In the National Football League the bulk of the income was generated in Divisions 1 and 2. The income from Divisions 3 and 4 was significantly lower.
Division 1A in the Hurling League delivered the bulk of the hurling revenue. Division 1B had some very competitive games which generated good income also. Games in Divisions 2 and 3 generate no revenue.
The allocation of League funding is based on the performances of each county. However, the system recognises that many counties attract minimal support, principally because they operate at a lower grade.
The League pool system is aimed at bringing a level of fairness to how the overall income is allocated. The teams reaching the knock-out stages are well rewarded. The remaining counties are guaranteed a minimum level of revenue. In many instances this is significantly higher than what the county generated in gate receipts.
The reaction from a Croke Park spokesman to the Carlow chairman’s comments was factually correct. Perusing the latest set of accounts we can see that every championship competition last year, bar the senior hurling and football championships, plus the under-21 hurling and football championships, generated a negative return.
That negative return came to over €800,000, but it will not prompt the GAA to alter any of these championships (inter-county or club). The success of the senior hurling and football championships and their ability to generate significant commercial and media rights income brings huge benefits to counties. The allocation method guarantees big income to every county, with the more successful ones benefiting the most.
Compare the returns for Kilkenny and Carlow last year. Excluding capital grants Kilkenny received €512,000. Carlow received €277,000 from Croke Park. Kilkenny’s consistent success leaves the county strongly placed to secure significant commercial income. We know how successful Kilkenny (and a number of other counties) has been in that regard.
The more money a county has the better the resources to prepare inter-county sides. The counties which enjoy success at inter-county level put huge resources into teams.