With full integration, the bill could reach €110m in little over a decade
€1 million per week; €142,857 per day; €5,952 per hour (including sleep time!). By any standards, that’s big-time spending which is happening right now and will continue up to the end of July.
Correction. In all probability, team costs for 2023 will exceed those quoted as they refer to last year and the total amount spent by the 32 counties on inter-county activity.
Colleague Colm Keys undertakes a deep trawl of the amount spent on squads every year, presenting the 2022 figures on these pages last Saturday week. They make startling reading and should be high on the agenda at Congress later this month, but they won’t.
Instead, there will be a collective shoulder shrug, accompanied by mutterings about team costs becoming a runaway train.
As for discussing how to get a driver aboard to slow it down, well don’t look to Congress.
Don’t look to Central Council or provincial councils either. As for county boards, they’re cheerleading the train as it speeds through the country bound for who-knows-where.
Keys’ in-depth review of 2022 revealed a total spend of €32.5m. That’s an increase of almost nine per cent on 2019, the last year that can be accurately compared (Covid interrupted 2020 and 2021). It’s up 68pc on 2013.
If that rate of increase is maintained, annual team costs will be almost €55m when the GAA celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2034. And that applies to Gaelic football and hurling only.
If, as expected, there’s full integration between the GAA, Camogie Association and Ladies Gaelic Football Association in the coming years, then the 2034 figure could be around €110m.
Let’s go back for now to the GAA’s 2022 spend of €32.5m. Including pre-season, which started in December 2021, the inter-county campaigns ran for 32 weeks, concluding with the All-Ireland football final on July 24. Hence the average €1m-per-week calculation.
Limerick and Galway both surpassed the €2m mark, with Kerry just behind on €1.9m. Twelve counties spent more than €1m, while a further 13 came in between that and €750,000. Only Wicklow (€483,000) were below the half-million mark.
The shortened inter-county season obviously made no impact on reducing costs. That’s not surprising since there appears to be an immutable law which states that whatever was spent last year has to be surpassed this year.
Question is – who assesses value for money? Who in a county board knows exactly how money is spent on teams? The executive? All of them, or just a select few? Is the team manager and/or his ever-lengthening entourage being paid? If so, how much?
It’s easy to adopt the ‘mind you own business’ approach to any queries on spending. Why should counties have to explain why – or how – their team costs are so high? They don’t, of course, but is that right? As we were so regularly reminded during the debate on a split season, there’s more to the GAA than inter-county action.
Ultimately, there’s only so much in the financial pot and if inter-county scoops an increasing amount every year, then the rest suffers.
But, as the GPA are wont to argue, inter-county players are the main financial drivers, so what they want they should get.
It’s not that simple. The high-skill levels and commendable dedication by players are greatly appreciated by the general public, who are happy to dip deep into their pockets to see them in action.
However, it has to be a two-way street. In return for contributing generously to the funds which enable the GAA to make sure players are well looked and to the various other expenditures involved in running the organisation, the public are entitled to decent facilities at venues.
In a great many cases, they aren’t getting that, even at county grounds. Many of them fall well below basic comfort levels, which isn’t good enough in the modern era.
With team costs shooting up at an extraordinary rate every year, there will be less in the pot to pay for even the most basic facility improvements. Already, quite a few counties have had to either scale back or postpone proposed developments.
As for integration between the three Associations, the financial implications will be massive. If the three are to be equal partners in the new regime – and why bother otherwise – then camogie and ladies football will be entitled to exactly the same deal as the men.
No ‘ifs’ or ‘buts’ about it – equality for all or not at all. If that applied last year, team costs would be around €65m. Fast forward to 2034 and, based on increases over the last decade, it would be close to €110m.
Does anybody believe that’s sustainable? The alternative is to cut team costs across the board. There’s no sign of that happening in the GAA at present, but it will be necessary when integration goes through.
Who’s going to tell the GPA, who are enthusiastic supporters of integration, that the runaway train has to slow down.
Interesting times ahead.
What could Paddy Carr possibly have in mind when he remarked that Jack O’Connor should be “happy with a lot of decisions that have gone his way in the past year or so?”
Paddy was responding to Jack’s claim that a Donegal point during the clash with Kerry was, in fact, wide. “An incredible decision in a Division 1 game,” fumed Jack. Presumably he wasn’t implying that it would have been OK lower down.
So what decisions was Paddy referring to? Could the prime example have been when Galway’s John Daly was penalised while trying to break clear late in last year’s All-Ireland final at a time when the game was level?
The benefit of the doubt usually goes to the player in possession, but not this time. It was a very harsh call, giving Kerry a chance to go in front with a David Clifford pointed free.
Swings and roundabouts, Jack. But when the swing is against you, I’m sure you’ll agree it’s better if it comes in a first-round league tie than late in the All-Ireland final.
So what should Kilmacud Crokes do? Agree to a re-fixture of the All-Ireland club football final? Pursue the case through the appeals process and see where it takes them? Inform Croke Park that they won’t accede to the instruction to play Glen again and hand back the Andy Merrigan Cup?
The latter would be my choice, even if it means that the game will be awarded to the Derry champions and the Glen name going into the record books as All-Ireland champions.
It would, of course, be accompanied by an asterisk and an explanation that they lost the final on the pitch but won the title in the boardroom. Not exactly how you want to win an All-Ireland, now is it?
Under rule, the GAA could have fined Kilmacud over the 16th-man affair but have gone for the tougher option. Is it to flash out a warning to all clubs and counties for the future? A fine would have been appropriate, so by ignoring it they have thrown all responsibility over on Kilmacud. It’s harsh.