Thursday 19 September 2019

Comment: Money talks in Dublin’s bumper deal but there’s no easy fix as GAA looks to bridge the gap


Ard Stiúrthóir of the GAA Tom Ryan. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Ard Stiúrthóir of the GAA Tom Ryan. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

News of Dublin's renewed sponsorship deal with insurance giant AIG will prompt much conversation this week.

Even with the championship getting into full swing Dublin's announcement of a deal believed to be worth in the region of €1m a year means the blue wave will wash all across the GAA landscape.

The opinions on their new arrangement will range from something like it gives them an unfair and maybe unassailable advantage to the diehard Dubs who will insist that how Dublin GAA go about generating and spending their money is no concern of anyone else's.

As ever, the truth is somewhere in the middle.

It's true that finance plays more of a role in the GAA than ever before in terms of preparing teams and in developing underage structures. There's a direct correlation between the money invested in coaching and in the preparation of the senior team and Dublin's success.

In 2016, Dublin picked up €1.46 million - 14pc - of the total figure of €10.14 million that the GAA distributed to fund games development.

Last year Tom Ryan, in his role as director of finance and before he became the association's director-general, indicated that the GAA were to rebalance the spend across the country.

"It's a tricky one and it's one we've tried to give a fair bit of thought to over the course of the year," he said. "The short answer is no, it won't persist over the course of the next few years. There's not going to be a revolutionary change to it. We'll change it in evolutionary terms rather than in one fell swoop.

GAA Newsletter

Expert GAA analysis straight to your inbox.

"What we'll try to do, we'll try to grow the other counties. I think you'll see we have tried to do that. We have achieved that to a certain degree and we'll try and do that next year.

"We've nine or 10 specific things that our Finance Committee have looked at and want to implement for this year to do that. To be honest, in terms of bridging the gap, it won't be possible to do that without some degree of diminution in Dublin's funding and there will be a modest kind of re-calibration of that."

There have been a number of initiatives to help bridge that gap. The GAA are looking to develop a number of Leinster counties. They have also committed significant money to developing Gaelic games in Belfast. They are fine initiatives but it will be years before the fruits of that work is seen.

In the meantime, Dublin can bridge that reduction in funding from their own considerable coffers. Their ability to generate funds means they are less reliant on Croke Park's funds.

There have been a number of suggestions aimed at bridging the pay gap between counties with calls for sponsorships to be pooled and divided evenly amongst the competing counties.

Leitrim are the often-cited example when it comes to the wild discrepancies in the value of sponsorship. Their deal is believed to be worth in the region of €20,000 per annum. Dublin will pick up around €5m over the next five years. It hardly seems fair that both those teams play for the same prize.

To give that more context, Leitrim were fundraising in New York ahead of their Connacht Championship opener last week. They were given €50,000 by the Connacht Council to fund their trip to the Big Apple but anything beyond that came from their own pocket.

Fundraising is something Dublin don't have to worry about. Outside of AIG, they have 12 different partners ranging from a menswear partner to a health food company. A couple of years ago they launched an association with a non-alcoholic beer. They even have an 'official airline' in Aer Lingus. The Dublin GAA brand is strong and companies are queuing up to be associated with them.

At the launch of the Munster football championship last week, Waterford football manager Tom McGlinchey wondered aloud how different the championship would be if everyone started the year with a fixed panel of around 30 and just €200,000 to spend on the preparation of their team. For him, the gap between the haves and the have-nots will only get bigger.

While Dublin have deeper pockets than anyone else, it should be pointed out that they are extraordinarily well-run, on and off the pitch. They have money but it has been well-spent and in the right places to the point where they can fully realise all their natural advantages.

And you'd also have to wonder how much conversation would there be about Dublin's ability to generate finance if they weren't so dominant? Would the rest of the GAA be so concerned if they had gone a decade without winning Sam Maguire? It seems unlikely.

Dublin have always been the biggest draw around and after the appointment of Tomás Quinn as commercial manager they have found a way to realise that potential and there's no shortage of companies waving cheques at them looking for a piece of the action.

Other counties have followed suit by appointing commercial managers of their own, while the GAA will bridge the gap as best they can. Still, we won't ever have a scenario where everyone has exactly the same so it won't be fair.

But is it meant to be?

Irish Independent

The Throw-In: 'Jim Gavin has achieved what Mick O'Dwyer and Brian Cody couldn't do'

In association with Bord Gáis Energy

Also in Sport