Thursday 27 October 2016

EXCLUSIVE - Gaelic Players Association raises over €2m in North American funding drive

Published 23/09/2016 | 09:23

GPA CEO Dessie Farrell has been championing the cause of inter-county players since the association was formed in 1999
GPA CEO Dessie Farrell has been championing the cause of inter-county players since the association was formed in 1999

The Gaelic Player's Association and the Kerry County Board have raised almost €4m through fundraising efforts in North America since 2012, can reveal.

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In the past number of years GAA bodies have been tapping into the North American market for funds with the GPA and the Kerry County Board leading the way with expertly coordinated campaigns.

In 2011 the GPA established an advisory board in New York of business people, journalists, lawyers and a variety of other established contacts to help the Association develop a network of supporters in the US.

The board was established to raise awareness of the association's activities and to  raise additional funds for the GPA Player Development Programme.

The GAA's annual grant to the GPA is the primary source of funding for the Programme.

However, the GPA claim the US activity was established to help supplement Programme costs and to address a shortfall in funding.

In a statement released to, the GPA revealed that they have raised over €2m through their activities in the US.

"Since 2012 the GPA's US network and events have generated gross revenues of €2.07m.

"However, the relationship with US supporters of the organisation has yielded further benefits to the GPA - for example in 2014, one of the US network agreed to help fund the GPA Leadership Programme, a bespoke one year course for inter-county hurlers and footballers, male and female, past and present.

"Another donation was made recently to help fund a return to education/further education programme for retired players. Developing a supportive network in the US has additional benefits for players, particularly for those who may are interested in developing relations and doing business with US companies, looking for investors in  business start-ups, internships early in career or possibly broader career opportunities post playing days."

The GPA has come under fire in recent years for their fundraising efforts in the States. Meath legend Colm O'Rourke wrote in his Sunday Independent column back in October 2015: "I don't understand, though, why the GPA needs money to deal with the issues facing players; they just need to actively engage in the way a union might".

When Kerry reportedly raised over €1m during fundraising efforts in North America last year, the GAA world sat up and took notice.

They will cut the ribbon on their state-of-the-art center of excellence at Currans in early 2017 almost €5.8m will have been spent on a facility that will be the envy of most counties.

The Kerry County Board will be satisfied in the knowledge that in a time of economic uncertainty they managed to fund this ambitious project and should pat themselves on the back for their utilisation of the Kerry diaspora.

Back in 2013, a county board delegation including legends Eoin 'Bomber' Liston, Mikey Sheehy, Ogie Moran and Darragh Ó Sé, who share a haul of 29 All-Ireland medals, travelled to the Big Apple.

Two separate fundraising events on that trip raised around $25,000 each but a further $160,000 was raked in in donations.

That trip clearly indicated the huge tranche of funds which could be gleaned from trips across the Atlantic.

A year later, a more ambitious Kerry delegations returned and 350 businessmen and fans paid $1,000 a seat to attend the Kingdom's Manhattan event.

Their windfall more than doubled from their 2013 efforts and close to $500,000 was raised.

That trend would continue in 2015.

In May of that year, a coordinated series of events in Boston, New York and Chicago proved incredibly lucrative.

Events in Boston raised $107,000, a golf outing and lavish gala event at the Plaza Hotel on Fifth Avenue in New York, which included an auction, garnered $850,000 and fundraisers in Chicago brought in $85,000.

Lots including an oil portrait of Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh by West Kerry artist Liam O’Neill and four SuperBowl tickets netted over $20,000 in the New York auction.

Before they left for home, the Kerry delegation also secured $100,000 in finding from the American-Ireland Fund.

The Kingdom are not the only county who have utilised the North American market to boost the coffers.

Earlier this year, Roscommon played New York in the preliminary round of the Connacht championship and organised a series of events around the weekend of the game.

Over €300,000 was raised towards the construction of the Dermot Earley Centre in Runnabracken with the main event at the American Irish Historical Society on Fifth Avenue attended by 400 guests including actor Chris O'Dowd.

Back in June of this year, Monaghan GAA organised a golf classic in New York in conjunction with the Monaghan GAA Club in the city and the proceeds were split 60-40.

Most counties we contacted have yet to host a event in North America but many told us that they were examining the possibility of doing so.

With each county pushing for greater facilities and the spend on inter-county sides reaching new highs, the journey to the New World in search of monetary gain is likely to continue.

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