Levelling financial field will hurt game, warns Rebels chairman
Cork chairman Ryan wants funding to stay linked with size of counties
Potential moves by the GAA to rebalance the central funding mechanisms to provide better support for counties with smaller populations at the expense of those with greater resources, would be detrimental for the promotion of the game, Cork County Board chairman Bob Ryan has predicted.
In his annual report to Congress next month the GAA's director-general Paraic Duffy has called for an examination by the national finance committee into how money could be distributed to counties on a fairer basis to allow smaller counties to compete on a more level playing field in terms of back-up and support staff.
Duffy believes this is vital if counties are to remain competitive.
Croke Park money is distributed to provinces and counties across a number of headings from commercial and media revenue accruing from sponsorship and the sale of broadcast rights to a percentage of league gate receipts and championship grants which are linked to progress throughout the summer.
Duffy pointed out that some of the money distributed is on a fixed rate basis and doesn't take into consideration the number of clubs or the population.
He also outlined how largely rural counties incur greater travel costs that the more densely populated counties don't have to meet.
"We are in an era where some counties have back-room teams of up to 20 people. They can afford this back-up by virtue of their success in the top division of the Allianz Leagues, their income from sponsorship events and from other fundraising," he stated in his report.
The last available figures from 2012 show that some €37m was redistributed to provinces and counties for coaching and games development, ground rent, team expenses and general administration.
Included in that figure was capital expenditure of €7.1m which can't be considered regular payments.
Take that away and some €30m is left to divide among counties for day-to-day expenses. However, Ryan feels there be can't too much room to manoeuvre because of the sheer scale of an operation like theirs.
"I feel funding has to be linked to the size of a county and paid out in scale," said Ryan. "In some regards, there is common sense in what is being said, but you have to wonder, is it right to effectively punish counties who have been prudent in their financial affairs?
"Being successful can actually come at a price. What you get in grants does not cover the costs of being involved throughout August and September. Your costs are so much higher in those months, especially for those who have to travel to Croke Park," he said.
"We don't pay managers, we mind what we have, we feel we use it well and cut our cloth accordingly.
"I've been asked this question before in relation to an equalisation of sponsorship money, which was raised in Kildare and my answer is the same. We have a big area to run, we have a lot of coaching obligations and I'm sure Dublin feel the same."
Last year Dublin chairman Andy Kettle was equally cool on the matter, saying it was a case of "robbing Peter to pay Paul."
Dublin receive by far the greatest chunk of GAA money with over €2m signed over to them in 2012, but they are the biggest generators of gate receipts in the game and have by far the biggest undertakings.
Still, it's their capacity and the capacity of other counties like them to generate other money that concerns Duffy.
Kilkenny enjoyed the next biggest share of Croke Park money when capital projects were taken out of it, taking in €765,000 in 2012, but only spending just over €479,000 on all team expenses.They reaped a bigger dividend for winning the hurling league final and being involved in an All-Ireland championship replay.
Team expenses for all counties in 2013 came in at around €18.5m, similar to the overall spend in 2012.
Croke Park distributes money to counties in accordance with how far they progress in the championship. In 2012, Donegal got €201,500 for winning an All-Ireland final.
In contrast, Carlow, who were knocked out in the first-round qualifier match, picked up just €8,000, a difference of €193,500 for three extra months of activity.
It is a huge disparity and one that any examination in the future is likely to focus on.
Some counties like Tipperary benefit from regular rental of Semple Stadium and in 2012 they picked up €204,000, in contrast to Dublin who got just €1,829 for Parnell Park and Leitrim who picked up just €2,244.
There are some obvious anomalies in linking smaller population to a more favourable funding structure.
Wicklow, for instance, has the 16th largest population in the 32 counties according to the 2011 census figures with 136,448, but they punch way below the weight of that figure with the most recent All-Ireland hurling champions, Clare and Kilkenny and back-to-back All-Ireland football finalists Mayo below them on a population scale.
And despite Antrim and Down being the second and third most populated counties, large parts of their communities are not as widely exposed to Gaelic games.