Wednesday 22 May 2019

'GAA has to follow money to fund more progress' - Duffy

Duffy insists 'corporate' charge is 'utterly bogus' in annual report

Garth Books was due to play five concerts at Croke Park in 2014
Garth Books was due to play five concerts at Croke Park in 2014

The commercial imperative to generate greater income to put back into the association was strongly re-inforced throughout GAA's director-general Paraic Duffy's annual report to Congress next month.

The report, released yesterday, struck a common theme throughout that refuted the suggestion, permeating among some throughout 2014, that the GAA had become too much of a corporate entity deviating too far from core principles.

From the Sky Sports deal to the planned hosting of five Garth Brooks concerts last July - until Dublin City Council decided otherwise - and the staging of an American Football colleges match in August that forced the All-Ireland semi-final replay between Kerry and Mayo on the road to Limerick, the undercurrent of 'money first' was seized by several commentators.

But Duffy stressed that the GAA can't thrive on gate receipts alone and must strive to increase revenue streams where they can.

He pointed to the developments of Casement Park, Pairc Ui Chaoimh, Abbotstown, Ruislip and even Shannon Gaels in New York as reasons why the GAA must stay on the front foot in terms of revenue generation.

Purist

He said it was easier for some commentators to "act the purist" when all they have to do was talk.

"Certain commentators, not averse to finding a bandwagon to jump on and happier with a slogan than serious analysis, got good mileage out of a so-called 'corporate' GAA, by which they mean that the priority of the GAA is to make money," Duffy writes.

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"This bandwagon, it should be pointed out, was started by some of those opposed to Croke Park concerts. If the charge had any truth in it, it would be a serious matter deserving public discussion.

"But this is an utterly bogus charge, and a non-issue. As these commentators well know, the GAA is a not-for-profit organisation that generates revenue uniquely in order to fund the association's activities," he points out.

"Some of these commentators seem to consider themselves better, purer GAA members than the rest of us, but it's easy to act the purist when one has only to talk as opposed to taking decisions in the real world where the calls on our revenue from our units are enormous and unending and where we must compete vigorously to maintain the public's loyalty to games."

Duffy goes on to illustrate how more than 80pc of revenue generated is put back into the association, mainly through games programmes and infrastructural development and underlines the inadequacy of relying on traditional revenue streams alone.

"Gate receipts represent the single biggest GAA revenue source, but this income is not nearly adequate to meet the funding demands we face. It is a simple reality that we need the income derived from concerts, sponsorship, broadcast rights and other events," he continues.

"The false impression is created by some commentators that the GAA could fund its developments and compete with its sporting competitors."

He expressed "regret" at the "offence" caused by the move to Limerick for the Kerry-Mayo replay, admitting it had "backfired" on them.

"I have to acknowledge that we took a risk that backfired on us, a consequence of what proved to be an over-optimistic assessment of the unlikelihood of a replay."

But again the requirement for additional revenue streams were stressed. "The overarching reason relates to the need for the GAA to continue to be in a position to fund its development.

"The strategy of bringing an American football game to Croke Park arose from the necessity to widen our funding base.

"I utterly refute the claim that the American football game was part of a simple money-making exercise for the sake of pure financial gain. We simply don't think that way. We think only in terms of generating income that will go back out to our clubs and counties and that will help us fund projects already decided on."

The awarding of 14 exclusive live championship games to Sky Sports was also contentious and Duffy writes that those who believe that no games should be awarded exclusively to a subscription channel hold a "respectable position."

But he adds that "those in the GAA with whom lies the responsibility of safeguarding the status and position of our games, not just in the present but - even more importantly - in the future, are obliged to take into account factors that supporters, journalists and pundits can afford to ignore.

"Whether we like it or not, commercial and marketing factors are a feature of the world in which the GAA must operate."

The broadcasting on the Sky platform had led to an upsurge in interest with an estimated 427,000 watching the All-Ireland hurling final in the UK.

"There has been a huge increase in interest in our games, notably among young English-born people who have been arriving in substantial numbers at our UK clubs seeking to take up football and hurling. Many of these newcomers have no background in Gaelic Games, but were simply enthralled by what they saw on TV."

Duffy feels the GAA were "let down" by Dublin City Council over the refusal to grant a licence for five Garth Brooks' concerts in July and he challenged the 'over-intensification-of-use' excuse in the context of the 2023 Rugby World Cup bid.

"We did not hear anything over over-intensification-of-use' during the redevelopment of Lansdowne Road when Croke Park was needed to host international soccer and rugby internationals which were of course in addition to Croke Park's own schedule of match days and concerts.

"Is there anyone who seriously imagines that an argument about 'over-intensification-of-use' of Croke Park will be allowed to interfere with these seven World Cup rugby matches in Croke Park," he asked.

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