GAA lose out on €1.25m
Just five letters long and forming one word of a five-line paragraph in a 203-page book, it's the most expensive figure in Irish sport, costing the GAA at least €1.25m this month.
It's the word 'eight' and relates to the number of weekends over which Division 1 of the Allianz football and hurling leagues can be run off.
Rule 6.37 of the GAA's Official Guide states that Division 1 must be completed over eight weekends, and since there are seven group games on the schedule for each team, it allows for finals only to be completed on the eighth weekend.
That rules out semi-finals, which applied up to a few years ago, when the switch to straight finals between the top two teams was introduced.
Pressure grew to restore the semi-finals last year, but since the timescale for the league is governed by a rule which can only be amended by annual Congress which meets in April, no change could be introduced this year.
Central Council will table a motion on Saturday proposing the extension to nine the number of weekends allowed for Division 1. That would clear the way for the return of semi-finals next year and is expected to meet with near-unanimous support.
Meantime, an estimated €1.25m will be lost through the absence of semi-finals this year.
If the change been introduced in time, the football semi-final line-up would have been as follows: Dublin v Down, Cork v Kerry.
Hurling's top four won't be decided until next Sunday, but will feature four from the following: Kilkenny, Galway, Dublin, Tipperary and Waterford.
Dublin's presence in the football semi-finals would have been a major crowd-puller, especially when combined with the 2010 and 2009 All-Ireland champions, plus last year's runners-up. Properly marketed, that double-header could attract around 60,000 fans, while the hurling semi-finals would draw around 25,000. At a modest average of €15 per head, that equates to gate income of around €1.27m.
The GAA scrapped the semi-finals in football in 2008 and in hurling a year later. However, problems arose last year when the hurling finalists (Galway and Cork) were known before the final round of games, prompting Central Council to propose the return of semi-finals.
However, it comes too late to prevent the serious cash loss for this season.