GAA happy to spurn potential '€3m a year' in Croker naming rights deals
The GAA will continue to spurn potential income of €3m per year for selling the naming rights to Croke Park.
Peter McKenna, stadium and commercial director, said that as far he was concerned "it just isn't the right thing to do in a ground with as much history and tradition as Croke Park".
The IRFU receives €4m per annum from Aviva for the Lansdowne Road naming rights, prompting speculation that the GAA would seek to similarly exploit Croke Park for financial gain.
"Personally, I would not favour it. Croke Park is Croke Park. It's rich in history and tradition and we should keep it that way. Of course there's money to be had but I think by selling naming rights, you're making a big philosophical jump into a commercial environment.
"There is something pure and elegant about Croke Park as it is.
"This is a facility which owed a lot of money at one stage but we have managed to make it debt-free without going too far down the commercial route.
"There is a real affinity among the public with Croke Park. You'd lose a lot of that if it were just a named park," said McKenna in an exclusive interview with the Irish Independent.
He is confident that the GAA could negotiate a €30m naming rights package over 10 years, €10m lower than Aviva's deal in Lansdowne Road.
"Aviva gets more international exposure and the market is more depressed now than when that deal was done," said McKenna.
While several GAA grounds around the country have had naming rights sold and Cork county board are actively pursuing a deal for the redeveloped Pairc Ui Chaoimh, McKenna says that Croke Park is in a different category.
“County boards need to drive a commercial agenda with their ground but I’d make a differentiation with our national stadium. We’re in a different position with Croke Park – we’re stronger financially,” said McKenna.
Croke Park is, in fact, debt-free, although facing major expenditure over the next decade, when around €60m will be required for extensive refurbishment.
A detailed analysis of the stadium was undertaken recently, designed to identify priority work over future years.
This follows the discovery of a corrosion risk in the massive roof, caused by the impact of a salt wind, blown in from the sea.
All the steel work was treated with special paint at a cost of €1m.
“If we hadn’t done it, the cost would have been a lot higher later on,” said McKenna.