Bumper finances must help everyone

The season 2013 was a bumper one for the GAA with some memorable games in hurling and football. Hurling in particular delivered a year to savour, writes Nickey Brennan.

The season 2013 was a bumper one for the GAA with some memorable games in hurling and football. Hurling in particular delivered a year to savour, writes Nickey Brennan.

This contributed handsomely to excellent financial results.

A replayed All-Ireland senior furling final delivered an extra €2.8m, bringing total gate receipts for the year close to the €30m mark. Hurling was the real winner on and off the field with average attendance at the 15 hurling championship games (after the provincial series) at 25,489 compared to 15,996 for the 31 football championship games.

A big contributor to hurling surpassing football in average attendances was the big Nowlan Park clash between Kilkenny and Tipperary, which attracted a full house of 23,000. In the region of 50,000 attended third round qualifier and quarter-final games in Thurles, while 60,000 attended the two hurling semi-finals in Croke Park.

Gate receipts accounted for 54% of the GAA’s income. This was achieved in spite of the on-going turbulence in the economy with attendances at games growing by an impressive 11%.

A couple of years ago GAA Director General, Paraic Duffy, spoke of the ’Association’s challenges given the country’s economic difficulties. In the intervening period two hurling final replays brought an unexpected windfall while the GAA’s ability to increase attendances has been impressive.

An innovative marketing campaign, plus a range of ticket packages, were central to promoting both championships. It is clear from the scale of the attendances and from data collected via ticket sales that supporters have really welcomed the range of ticket packages.

One big winner from the increased attendances has been the Super Valu and Centra Group which sell match tickets on behalf of the GAA. In the region of 205,000 tickets were sold through the supermarket group.

Commercial revenue remains significant at €17.5m, while State funding at €3m and other income at €5m contributed to overall income of €54.5m. This was an increase of €3m on 2012.

Of the total of 346 league and championship games played in all competitions (excluding provincial competitions), only 53 games were profitable. The GAA accepts that a number of competitions will never be profitable, but that will have no impact on their future.

The one income black spot was the National Hurling League which saw a 29% fall in revenue to €921,000. While the Hurling League structure last year may have suited some, supporters voted by staying at home. That is a message that has not been heeded as similar structures operate this year.

Games development continues to receive significant investment with almost €10m spent in 2013. Much of this went to support the deployment of personnel around the country. Just over €500,000 was invested in overseas games development.

Player welfare costs came to €3.5m. This included the GAA’s commitment to the GPA which was used to fund a range of player welfare initiatives. Administration costs rose slightly to €8.56m, while team costs at €2.45m.

The announcement that the Croke Park Stadium debt has been officially cleared added to the positive outcome. When the stadium development commenced over 20 years ago some forecasted that it would take many decades to clear the debt.

It was also said at the time that the scale of the Croke Park investment would seriously impact on a range of other GAA projects, particularly games development. Things turned out very differently. Aside from the 64 games played in Croke Park in 2013, the stadium’s museum welcomed over 100,000 visitors with close to 25,000 taking the new skyline tour. The three One Direction and five Garth Brooks concerts in 2014 should guarantee close to €6m for the stadium.

Add in an American football game and we can see that this year is already looking very positive.