| 9.8°C Dublin

GAA to review major capital project funding as income exceeds €70m for first time - director general's report reveals

Croke Park unlikely to host major concert this year due to Euro 2020 finals

Close

GAA director-general Tom Ryan in attendance during the GAA/Croke Park Financial Reports and Director General's Annual Report briefing at Croke Park, Dublin. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

GAA director-general Tom Ryan in attendance during the GAA/Croke Park Financial Reports and Director General's Annual Report briefing at Croke Park, Dublin. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

GAA director-general Tom Ryan in attendance during the GAA/Croke Park Financial Reports and Director General's Annual Report briefing at Croke Park, Dublin. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

The GAA will review how they fund major capital projects in the wake of having to provide an additional €10m to ensure that the controversial redevelopment of Páirc Ui Chaoimh in Cork was completed.

The association's director-general Tom Ryan suggests in his annual report that future projects must be controlled centrally with appropriate oversight.

"Central Council funding must only be issued proportionately with progress rather than up front. Projects can only be permitted to start when all the funding is in place, and not proceed contingent upon future income," according to Ryan.

The redevelopment of Páirc Ui Chaoimh now expected to cost €96m, a significant increase on the original estimate of €78.5m.

Initially, the GAA provided a capital grant of €20m for the project. Ryan reveals that the stadium is now in debt to the tune of €31.5m, comprising of £21.5m in bank borrowings and the €10m loan from the GAA which was required to finish the development.

According to Ryan the long-term debt is expected to be in the region of €20m following the conclusion of ongoing negotiations and the sale of assets.

"These loans are recorded in the accounts of the Cork County Board and the primary responsibility for repayment rests with Cork and the Páirc Ui Chaoimh stadium," according to Ryan.

He details some of the reasons for the significant increase in the cost of the project.

Principal among these was the need for a new pitch to be installed. "To exacerbate these problems, the income streams identified to fund the project failed to materialise," he said.

"The sale of 10-year premium seats was under-subscribed and land that was earmarked to be sold to fund part of the build cost proved to be overvalued,” he reveals.

Ryan remains hopeful that the long-delayed project to turn Casement Park in Belfast into a 34,000-capacity stadium can still go ahead. But he warns that the development can only go ahead if additional funding from the British exchequer is forthcoming.

Back in 2011, the then Northern Ireland executive had earmarked £138m to fund various stadium redevelopments with £61.4m going towards the rebuilding of Casement Park.

Close

GAA Director of Finance Ger Mulryan, left, and Stadium & Commercial Director Peter McKenna in attendance during the GAA/Croke Park Financial Reports and Director General's Annual Report briefing at Croke Park. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

GAA Director of Finance Ger Mulryan, left, and Stadium & Commercial Director Peter McKenna in attendance during the GAA/Croke Park Financial Reports and Director General's Annual Report briefing at Croke Park. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

But the funding was on the basis that the new stadium would also host soccer and rugby games.

"Almost a decade later the stadia for rugby and soccer have long since been built and the cost of providing the originally-planned GAA stadium have doubtless increased significantly," he said.

"So, we will need to secure additional public funding to ensure delivery of the Casement Park stadium."

Ryan reveals that the cost of preparing and fielding intercounty senior teams in 2019 was €29.74m – an increase of more than 11 percent on the 2018 figure. "This is a trend that simply cannot continue," he writes.

"Quite apart from being unsustainable, it is not desirable. Yes, counties will invariably secure the funds they need, but at a cost of immense pressure on the officers.

"The solution may well lie with rules and spending caps. I am hesitant only because our track record with similar rule-based enforcement around county teams is mixed.

"The solution has to start with a collective recognition that we take collective responsibility and start to reverse the trend now."

Further details of the GAA's plans for Clonliffe College, which the association purchased from the Dublin Diocese, were revealed at the media briefing in Croke Park.

The GAA has already paid €22m for the site but according to the Croke Park director Peter McKenna this does not represent the total price of the property. Three more payments are due to be paid over the next couple of years.

It is planned to develop two full-sized GAA pitches, a club house and changing room facilities.

As with the GAA centre in Abbotstown, clubs, schools and county teams both locally and from all over the country will be able to use the facility.

Just over an acre of the 31.8-acre site has been earmarked for a hotel – planning permission has already been obtained for a 200-bed facility - while the existing Red House structure will be retained and will probably be used for office space.

The rest of the property has been sold to international property development company Hines for a housing development including social and affordable housing.

On the financial front, the GAA had a bumper year with the Central Council's total income exceeding €70m for the first time.

Boosted by a significant growth in gate receipts which increased from €29.5m to €36m – helped by the All-Ireland final replay between Dublin and Kerry and an increase in ticket prices – the total income amounted to €73.8m an increase of 16 percent.

Just under 50 percent of their income was generated from gate receipts with 27 percent coming from commercial revenue. Overall, the Central Council had an operating surplus of €12.1m.

It was also a bumper year for the Croke Park stadium which generated total revenue of €29.9m.

This enabled the stadium to hand over a cheque of €10.5m to the GAA, the biggest since Croke Park hosted rugby and soccer internationals during the redevelopment of Lansdowne Road.

Stadium director Peter McKenna revealed that a new pitch will be laid following this year's All-Ireland finals with the sod coming from a turf farm in the Naul which is owned by the GAA.

He also revealed that it is most unlikely that there will be any concerts in the stadium in 2020.

He explained that the mega bands are not touring Europe this summer because the Euro 2020 soccer finals are being held in 12 different cities.

Online Editors