CROKE PARK has snubbed an Irish company, which is also one of its major sponsors, to award a food contract to a UK company.
Musgraves Food Services -- who will sponsor both the All-Ireland football and hurling championships through Centra and Supervalu -- have missed out on the lucrative deal.
Musgraves were forced to let 80 employees go in February because of loss of revenue in its commercial sector.
The contract was awarded to Crossgar, a company based in the North which is owned by UK food giant 3663.
Both companies made the final three in the tendering process but the Irish company controversially lost out.
The Croke Park authorities have defended their handling of the issue, which has angered a leading industry source.
"There were three companies in the final stage of the tendering process -- Musgraves, a US company and Crossgar," the source said.
"Croke Park were very specific in terms of what products and brands they wanted to be supplied with, meaning that the pitches were largely identical except in terms of price.
"Crossgar got the contract because of the VAT rate in the UK and favourable sterling-euro exchange rates and lower labour costs in the North.
"The biggest bone of contention is that they would dismiss the pitch from an Irish company, given the current economic climate, especially a company which is part of a group that from next year onwards will sponsor the All-Ireland championships.
"It was a blind tender, they never came back to Musgraves to see whether they could improve their pitch to meet the accepted one.
"It's our national stadium and the GAA is a national symbol but we have a UK company supplying it, which could ultimately cost Irish jobs.
"It's ironic given the whole hullabaloo that surrounded the opening of Croke Park to soccer and rugby that an Irish company should lose out in this way."
Croke Park stadium director Peter McKenna said: "Crossgar is based in the 32 counties, and we're no different to any other company operating in Ireland using a tendering process, which is internationally recognised as best practice in corporate governance. We're a 32-county organisation.
The Herald was told by PCT (Pairc an Chrocaigh Teoranta, the GAA subsidiary that runs Croke Park) that the ultimate decision on the contract resided with the catering company at Croke Park, Fitzers.
Musgraves have been a long term supporter of the GAA and their high profile sponsorship was last month lauded by GAA president Christy Cooney.