Saturday 19 October 2019

GAA strike gold as crowds and revenues soar

Income rose by 9pc in 2017 while attendances at the All-Ireland championships increased by 24 per cent

Peter McKenna launch. Photo: Sportsfile
Peter McKenna launch. Photo: Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

The GAA enjoyed a bonanza year in 2017, with income at central level soaring to €65.6 million - a rise of 9pc on 2016.

The increase came across several headings, with gate receipts showing the biggest surge.

They jumped by almost €4m to €34m. That's despite the 2016 Dublin-Mayo All-Ireland football final and the Kilkenny-Waterford hurling semi-final going to replays.

They were partially offset by replays in the Kerry-Mayo semi-final and the Roscommon-Mayo quarter-final last year.

"Even without that windfall (2016 All-Ireland final replay) and without any major increase in admission prices, our gate receipts have grown successively in recent years," said GAA finance director Tom Ryan

"The number of people attending All-Ireland series games in 2017 grew by 24 per cent."

Average attendances at All-Ireland championship games was 21,723, an increase of 4,300 on 2016.

Hurling showed a bigger increase than football, rising from 22,456 in 2016 to 29,075 last year. Football went from 15,660 to 19,049.

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Hurling's 10,000 lead over football is slightly misleading as the figures only include games run by Central Council (Croke Park).

Provincial councils organise their own affairs and issue their own end-of-year returns.

Many of the games in the early rounds of the All-Ireland football qualifiers are not major attractions, which brings down the average.

Hurling has fewer qualifier games and with some big guns firing in the second rounds, attendances are invariably high.

Kilkenny, Waterford, Tipperary and Dublin featured in Round 2 of the qualifiers last year.

Wexford's return as a major power provided a huge boost for the Leinster and All-Ireland championships, where the All-Ireland quarter-finals were played over two days to mark the re-opening of Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

The Cork-Waterford and Galway-Tipperary All-Ireland semi-finals were also big draws, attracting a total of 140,000 people.

"The novelty value of the redeveloped Páirc Uí Chaoimh and the resurgence of Cork and Wexford were significant," added Ryan.

"There are similar stories in every competition, where the vagaries of pairings, venues and prices all combined to deliver a positive outcome on the revenue front," said Ryan.


Gate receipts for the Allianz leagues increased by €500,000 on 2016. Football showed the bigger rise, up by €400,000 despite having no semi-finals in Division 1 for the first time in several years. Hurling did well too, increasing by €100,000 over 2016 which featured a replayed final.

Despite the positive attendance figures, Ryan pointed out that the biggest six All-Ireland games accounted for almost half of the entire turnout.

He also warned against escalating costs in the preparation of teams which is estimated to have reached €25m last year.

"Foremost among our financial risks is the cost that counties continued to incur in preparing teams.

"We should seek to measure ourselves collectively next year on how those costs are managed and controlled. We should strive to increase self-sufficiency. The long-term health of our counties depends on it," said Ryan.

Despite a drop of €500,000 in sponsorship, commercial revenue rose to €18.7m, an increase of €855,000 on 2016.

The main surge was in media rights which increased by €1.32m. It arose from the latest broadcasting deal, which started last year and will remain in place until the end of 2021.

Match-day costs were the biggest item of expenditure, reaching €12.9m last year.

That includes venue rental (€9.3m), match officials' expenses, ticketing and insurance.

Team expenses amounted to €2.5m, while players' mileage and nutrition allowances reached €1.8m.

A total of €6.2m went on player welfare, which is separate to expenditure by the Gaelic Players Association.

The total cost of administration was €10.6m, with staff and pensions costs coming in at €4.4m, up €235,000 on 2016.

Capital grants for various projects around the country cost €5.6m.

"Overall, it was a very good year in financial terms. Next year promises to be interesting. The changes to the championship structures in both hurling and football see us heading into slightly uncharted territory. The likely financial impact remains a little unclear," said Ryan.

He also expressed concern over the increasing cost of insurance claims and premiums, which has been a growing problem over recent years.

"It demands attention and corrective action. Expect to hear a lot more on this in 2018," said Ryan.

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