€19.3m: The huge cost of training county teams but value is key question
The cost of preparing inter-county teams has dipped back below the €20m mark for the first time in four years.
The drop, however, is much smaller than GAA officials would have anticipated, given the drive there has been to reduce costs across the board, particularly in the cost of running teams -- which has been seen as excessive in recent times. A review of the audited figures in the 32 counties (London and New York were not included) shows that €19,288,006 was spent on preparing all inter-county teams in 2010.
This is a 3.68pc drop of €737,060 from the 2009 figure that hovered just above the €20m mark. This figure includes Cork, who are the biggest spenders with €1,572,365, and Leitrim, who were the only county, according to figures, to prepare their teams for less than €300,000 in 2010.
It puts the average spend on county teams at €602,750 -- but only 11 counties are above that figure, which illustrates a huge gap between what is being spent at the top and the bottom.
Spending on inter-county teams is generally linked to what a county can raise through fundraising, local gates and central grants and few counties, it should be pointed out, ran a deficit on overall 2010 accounts.
Most counties follow a similar template of auditing their accounts and are transparent in what they spend. In some counties, however, sponsors can pick up the tab for various elements of preparation directly, while other managers draw on separate fundraising outlets.
The main spending areas are on travel, catering, medical and physio, equipment and sports gear. Some counties also include a 'team administration fund' that will incorporate the expenses of a team management and support staff. At 50 cent per mile it is generally travel that tops most bills, especially in bigger counties where distances are much longer.
There was alarm some years ago when the cost of preparing all inter-county teams pushed through the €20m barrier. Then GAA president Nickey Brennan urged counties to address the matter but for the last three years the figures remained above the €20m mark. In 2002, preparation of inter-county teams came in at €11.2m. Some counties have made major savings and, in all, 22 have dropped their expenditure from 2009 levels. Westmeath were the most ruthless accountants, shaving €167,596 off their 2009 figures.
Cavan, Tyrone, Mayo, Limerick, Leitrim, Roscommon and Galway hurling were also able to record sizeable decreases. Medical and physio costs were tackled ferociously, though bus operators, caterers and sportswear manafacturers all had to take a cut.
In Roscommon's case they won Connacht senior and U-21 titles on a budget that was over €100,000 less than the previous year. It is not clear if, in some cases, bills from the previous year were incorporated into 2010 accounts.
Eight of the nine Ulster counties managed savings, with only Down rising -- understandable because of their participation in an All-Ireland final.
The biggest-spending province is Munster, where all six counties can be found in the top 12 big spenders. The lowest spend there was Limerick, whose hurlers were in turmoil in 2010.
Waterford, Kerry and Limerick all managed to take their spending down considerably but there was still €5.8m plus spent, albeit in a province where the two major titles now rest.
There is consensus among treasurers that the cost of staging a training session is around €2,500. Depending on the size of a support team that includes specialist coaching, this can rise to €3,500 in some cases. The biggest spend is the senior flagship team in a county, which will account for between 70pc and 80pc. Four counties continue to operate over the €1m mark -- Cork, Tipperary, Dublin and Kerry.
How interesting that at the beginning of the previous decade Cork's hurlers and footballers were out on strike over welfare demands. Now they spend some €300,000 more than their nearest rivals but all their teams are highly competitive, and everything is sure to be accounted for in the convention report.