Cooney warns stricken boards
"If you haven't got it, you can't spend it." That was the stark warning to stricken county boards from GAA president Christy Cooney yesterday as he reiterated the message that Croke Park will not bail out counties in financial trouble.
Tipperary are the latest county to report a huge deficit in 2011 and members of the GAA's financial committee will meet representatives from every county over the coming months to discuss their situations.
But echoing last week's comments from Leinster Council chairman Martin Skelly, Cooney said that the GAA would not make exceptions in their policy.
"A number of counties have challenges. I'm very concerned," he said. "County boards have responsibilities for managing their own finances and I've repeated this at Congress in my last two addresses.
"You don't spend what you haven't got and if you do spend over it, make sure you can manage to repay it if you're in a loan situation.
"What we're clearly saying to our counties is manage your finances, there's a structure there to talk about and manage inter-county team expenses. You sit down with the county board representatives and the players group at the start of the year and outline what's available and what you can do.
"We're not in a position to bail out and we're not going to bail them out. I support what Martin Skelly said last week that counties have to manage their affairs and we're saying that continuously to counties -- manage your affairs, keep within your budgets, don't overspend."
Cooney believes that counties must be realistic with their budgets and not try to keep up with counties like Dublin, whose massive commercial potential allows them to spend more on their county teams.
"Dublin are in a position to afford it," he said. "Dublin, I believe, are in the black this year, so it's not an issue. It's clearly an issue in other counties and counties have suffered with sponsorship, there's no point in saying otherwise.
"If you haven't got it, you can't spend it and that's our absolute message to them. We've said it openly to them. We've been very honest and open. That's what we have to do. There's no reason it can't be done."
Falling gate receipts are a particular worry and Cooney has called on counties to produce affordable ticket packages in the new year. "One of the genuine concerns that's coming through now is a lot of counties' gate receipts are down, I saw it in Tipperary," he said. "It's happening in other counties around the country. Counties are going to have to put attractive packages together to keep patrons going to our matches.
"They should have their prices at a level that people can afford. That's important. We have done it very sensibly here at Croke Park for the last year. I think that has to transcend permeate throughout the Association at provincial and county level. We've got to make it possible for our patrons to attend games."
Speaking at the GAA Games Development Conference launch, Cooney also responded to criticism of the proposed introduction of a 'tap and go' rule in Gaelic football, saying the idea would be trialled in the spring, but that its passing is not a foregone conclusion.
"No decision has been made. We're looking at a 'tap and go' situation to see will it work, what type of penalties we should impose, what effect it will have on a team and we haven't even made a decision on it," he said.
"All it is is a suggestion. We'll see if it works and we'll make a decision from there. Would I say it's going to happen? I don't know. It's a suggestion and we're going to try it.
"If it'll improve the game, if it'll cut down fouling, if it'll create more scores and a more free-flowing game, which we all want, great. If it doesn't, it won't happen, so we don't know. All we can do is try it."