Director-general in call to take funds from rich and give to poor
A FUNDING system that is fairer to counties with smaller populations should be looked at in the coming year, according to GAA director-general Paraic Duffy in his annual report to Congress.
Advancing a point made by GAA president Liam O'Neill last year, Duffy says in his report that the GAA's national finance committee will be asked to explore options that 'equalise' the central funding for counties.
It would effectively mean that large centres of population like Cork, Dublin, Galway and Antrim would receive less from Croke Park on an annual basis to support the obvious disadvantage that counties like Leitrim, Longford and Sligo are at with their population deficits.
Duffy acknowledges that such a shift in emphasis "would not be easy" and would be greeted by a "cool reception" by those who would receive less.
But he insists that if the county structure is to remain the cornerstone that it is, they will have to look at ways of supporting the smaller counties better.
In explaining his point at a briefing yesterday, Duffy outlined that the combined population of Leitrim, Longford, Carlow, Sligo, Fermanagh, Roscommon and Monaghan did not amount to more than 400,000 and that to "participate as equals" they needed greater assistance.
He is adamant, however, that the inter-county structure is "not going to change."
"It is clear that counties are not competing on equal terms. We are in an era where some counties have back-room teams of up to 20 people; they can afford this by virtue of their success in the top division of the Allianz Leagues, their income from sponsorship and corporate events, and from other fundraising," he writes in his report.
"Small counties, by contrast, draw from a restricted pool of players, must survive on lower revenues, and can afford minimal back-room support, yet must compete in the same leagues and championships as those with substantially greater budgets.
"These lesser-funded counties incur the same travel, meal and medical costs, but do not have the additional resources and supports to compete on an equal footing. Indeed, some largely rural counties incur greater costs due to players constantly travelling long distances to training from major urban centres."
Duffy feels that some are putting themselves in real financial distress to try and keep up with the top teams who are funded much better.
"A number of counties have sought assistance from Central Council to bring their finances into order, while other counties may need support from central level in the year ahead. Falling revenue and increasing debt are a major problem for some, but so, too, is the failure to control costs," he writes.
"Counties are spending a large percentage of their income on, in particular, the preparation of senior inter-county teams; while some can afford their current level of spending, many cannot."
He warns that measures may have to be taken to control spending on inter-county teams.
"This year, Central Council attempted to establish a register of all individuals working with senior inter-county teams, be they team managers, selectors, coaches, physiotherapists, doctors, psychologists, masseurs, video recordists and analysts, strength and conditioning consultants, nutritionists and others.
"It proved difficult to establish an accurate tally of the number of paid personnel working with some county teams and, thus, of the costs incurred; the effort to do so must continue in 2014. What can be said is that measures will have to be taken to regulate spending on county teams."
Funding from central level to counties is distributed within largely equal parameters, with most counties receiving fixed amounts regardless of population sizes or the number of clubs.
"It is a model guaranteed to make it very difficult for smaller counties to participate in championships with a prospect of success. The only way we can address this issue in such a way as to retain a competitive inter-county model is to devise a fairer method of financial distribution," Duffy says.
"Given that a significant increase in overall GAA income is unlikely in the next couple of years, this would mean reducing funding for counties with strong gate receipts, formidable fundraising capacity and valuable sponsorship and increasing direct support to those with lesser resources."