Thursday 8 December 2016

Capital gain from coaching fund faces review

Published 03/02/2016 | 02:30

The GAA's director of finance, Tom Ryan, and Peter McKenna discussing the figures
in Croke Park yesterday (SPORTSFILE)
The GAA's director of finance, Tom Ryan, and Peter McKenna discussing the figures in Croke Park yesterday (SPORTSFILE)

Games development funding paid to Dublin directly from central revenues since a special deal with the Irish Sports Council in 2005 has passed the €16million mark.

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Accounts published by the GAA yesterday showed that the funding for games development in the capital remained at €1.46m, the same figure as 2014.

The scale of the money allows Dublin to fund a large coaching operation across the capital that has clearly helped to build the successes at all levels in recent years.

The concept of the deal was to create a greater footprint for Gaelic games in the country's largest centre of population. The thinking at the time was that Dublin was a special case that faced stiffer competition from other sports like rugby and soccer and therefore required a different approach.

The premise was that for the GAA to be strong, it had to be strong in the capital. The initial understanding was that some €1m would be earmarked for Dublin development, chiefly hurling, from the Sports Council's annual funding for the GAA.

To that end it has been a success and has consequently helped to provide Dublin with the tools to generate far greater commercial revenues for themselves.

While the figure is now somewhere around the €640,000 mark set aside for Dublin from Sports Council accounts, the levels of funding have not changed much over the years because of the requirement of the GAA to support the structures and personnel that have already been put in place.

The annual grants given to Dublin for the purposes of coaching and games development since the deal was put together under the presidency of Sean Kelly have ranged from €1.35m in 2005 to a peak of €1.64m in 2009.

In 2015, the GAA, at central level, distributed €9.37m for games development. Strip out what they paid under this heading to the four provinces, Britain and overseas and Dublin's amount is 47pc of what's left for direct distribution among the 32 counties.

Coaches employed by Dublin are joint-funded - to the tune of half - by those clubs. For the rest of the country coaches are employed by the provinces.

Grants from Leinster Council, which received €1.7m from central funds to redistribute to its counties, are not factored into county distribution but under the heading 'Dublin coaching project' in the provincial body's most recent of accounts there's a further €241,050 set aside specifically for Dublin from a €4.5m coaching budget.

By comparison to most other counties, even on a per capita basis, Dublin appear to be funded much more generously.

Cork, the next most populated county (519,000 compared to Dublin's 1.271m documented in the 2011 Census) received €74,000 for games development from central funds in 2015.

Even if their Munster Council coaching grants were greater than what Leinster provide for Dublin it couldn't come close to a what is a 20-fold central funding difference for a county with just two-and-a-half times the population. Kildare is one of the fastest areas of population growth (with Fingal and Meath) but for a 210,000 population they receive just €42,600 from central funds for games development. Again no relative shortfall, based on per capita figures, could be made up by provincial figures.

Wexford and Meath can put forward the same argument based on their populations indexed to central funding, so too can Mayo, Galway and even Kerry on the western seaboard.

What Dublin gain handsomely on coaching grants they lost on commercial grants from the media and sponsorship deals. Each county gets €175,000, irrespective of profile or seasonal longevity, and given the drawing power of Dublin for sponsors and broadcasters that leaves them short.

And there's no doubt that a strong Dublin, drawing big crowds, reaps benefits for every county. But those counties have to be asking if the current model, remains sustainable in the face of such an apparent imbalance.

It's an issue for the GAA that has been lurking for some time but has been difficult to resolve as they seek to 're-balance' financial distribution. If Sports Council money is re-directed elsewhere, away from its original target, does that change the terms of reference of the original deal?

When asked about Dublin's €1.46m compared to Leitrim's €39,000, GAA's director of finance Tom Ryan said provincial coaching grants created a "slight anomaly".

"An amount of the coaching revenue is diverted via the provinces so a specific amount that is going to Connacht, and is reported as Connacht in these numbers, is for the benefit of and spent in Leitrim as well directly so we're not quite comparing like with like."

The GAA have been intent on change but it has been hard to implement. "If it was easy to resolve in 12 months I suppose you might have seen a change,"he said.

Complicated

"It's quite complicated, you have to look at the relative cost bases in the different counties, you've got to look at the scale of the different counties and you've got to look at the level in which they are fielding teams in both codes."

The GAA have set up a small group under the auspices of its national financial committee to examine more equitable ways to fund counties but cutting some to pay for others is not on the agenda, says Ryan.

"It's not a question of trying to take resources away from particular counties, the job really should be to provide extra for all of the other counties. It's going to be a job of work that will probably take up to three years in terms of re-balancing competition dividends and things like that, but you will see some changes emerging from that group over the course of the next 18 months to three years," he added.

This year's figures for games development show a spike for hurling counties considered to be second tier. Laois, Offaly, Carlow and Westmeath are among those all featuring higher in 2015 as a result of a special scheme devised some years ago.

The acceptance about the need for the GAA to tackle the capital and win market share over a decade ago, helped by considerable state funding, has been replaced by growing sense that there should be quicker remedial action.

Irish Independent

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