€13.5m: Provincial gate figures make pleasant reading for GAA as decline fears prove unfounded
GATE receipts at last year's four provincial championships were down by 6.25pc on 2008 but still yielded an impressive €13.5m, compared to €14.4m a year earlier.
Despite the decrease, the figures will be seen as extremely healthy at a time of deep economic recession. It was feared that 2009 would show a dramatic decline -- both in attendances and gate revenue -- but that did not materialise.
Munster and Connacht actually showed an increase on 2008 takings while Ulster and Leinster dropped, the latter quite marginally. Ulster were the biggest losers, suffering a reduction of €1.5m on the previous year's gates. Much of that decrease was due to the absence of drawn games last year whereas Ulster had two replays in 2008.
Both were extremely lucrative, featuring Armagh v Fermanagh in the final and Down v Tyrone in the quarter-final. Between them, those games attracted almost 51,000 spectators.
Ulster's gates yielded €1.8m last year, compared with €3.3m in 2008.
When compared to 2007 figures, last year's come in at around €200,000 less than 2007, which was the last pre-recession year. Ulster had one drawn game in 2007 so, in real terms, Ulster last year remained in line with overall pre-recession trends.
Leinster were marginally down on 2008 figures, dropping by €200,000 which equates to 3.3pc. They had no replays in either senior football or hurling last year, unlike 2008 when Dublin and Wexford finished level in the semi-final.
However, Leinster were boosted last year by the arrival of Galway in the senior hurling championship where their semi-final clash with Kilkenny yielded €147,000. Leinster's total gate receipts were €5.7m.
Munster's 2009 income increased by €734,000 on 2008, due mainly to Kerry v Cork (football) and Limerick v Waterford (hurling) semi-final replays while Connacht, which had no replay in either year, increased by €100,000 to €1.1m last year. Replays only apply from the semi-final stage on as extra-time is played in earlier round games.
Figures for the 2009 All-Ireland championships, which were run by Central Council from Croke Park, will emerge later in the month when the GAA publishes its annual accounts.
They are expected to show a decrease on 2008 although attendance figures held solid. However, family-friendly packages, plus other initiatives designed to avoid a drop in crowds, had a downward influence on receipts.
Attendances generally held up well in the provinces too in 2008. Leinster increased by 3,400, Munster was up by 53,000 and even when the crowds at the two replays are taken out their overall attendance was up 7,000 on the previous year. Connacht was up by 1,000 on 2008.
Ulster was down by 64,000 but the real drop was 13,600 when the two 2008 draws are excluded.
While the GAA at national and provincial level will be pleased with how the attendances and gate money held up in 2009, there's no doubt that the challenge will be even greater this year.
Admission prices will be frozen at existing levels but with over 430,000 people unemployed, transport costs soaring and an increasing number of games being shown live on TV the GAA will do extremely well to retain 2008 numbers.
They have stressed that the priority will be to maintain crowd figures through the use of special packages to attract families and groups. That lessens the receipts but the GAA would prefer to absorb that hit rather than lose out on attendance numbers.
Meanwhile, the narrow margins under which counties operate are starkly illustrated in Connacht's annual report which shows the income-expenditure ratio of the province's five counties.
The Galway Hurling Board and the Sligo County Board ran at a loss in 2009 while the Galway Football Board and the Roscommon and Leitrim County Boards showed a small surplus, leaving Mayo as the only county with a sizeable profit. They had €467,000 in hand after taking in €1.9m.
Galway hurling was the worst financial performer, showing a deficit of €102,000 on an income of €806,000 while Galway football had a surplus of €58,000 on an income of €873,000. Hurling and football work off separate boards in Galway while the County Board operates as an overall entity.
It had an €18,000 surplus on an income of €209,000 last year. The overall figures for the three boards show a deficit of €26,000.
Roscommon were €51,000 in the black off a €1.5m income but Sligo came up just €140 short on their €479,000 income. Leitrim showed a surplus of €84,000 having taken in €1.2m.
Overall, the five counties retained only €575,000 from a gross income of almost €7m.