Sunday 21 July 2019

Pat Spillane: 'It's time the government took responsibility for building stadia away from individual sports organisations like the GAA'

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An aerial view of Páirc Ui Chaoimh
An aerial view of Páirc Ui Chaoimh

Pat Spillane

I know I should be writing about football, but I can’t get the projected €2 billion cost of the new National Children’s Hospital out of my mind.

As a former public servant I’m not surprised that nobody is being held responsible.

Nowadays, the public service is all about reports, paper trails and mountains of files. Nobody is in charge and perish the thought that anybody actually takes responsibility if things go awry.

I’m afraid the GAA is no different. The current estimated overrun on the redevelopment of Páirc Uí Chaoimh is €25m.

The myriad issues surrounding the project were displayed last Sunday with the appalling state of the pitch for the double bill of league matches.

The original stadium had the smallest dressing rooms in any ground I ever played in and there were constant complaints about the amount of leg room for spectators in the main stand.

Now the new expensive stadium has the worst playing surface in the country and will be out of bounds for several months. 

Cork GAA clubs face the unenviable prospect of having to pay off a huge debt on the project for the foreseeable future.

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This is also another case of the government not being held accountable in a major capital expenditure project.

Remember, they poured €30m of taxpayers’ money into the development in the faint hope that Ireland would secure the rights to host the 2023 rugby World Cup.

Did any government official oversee how their money was spent? I think we all know the answer; though I bet there is a mountain of files lying in some department about the project.

Now I know this sounds contradictory, but I believe the government should take responsibility for building stadia away from individual sports organisations and provide smaller municipal stadia instead.

At the moment the GAA has too many underutilised stadia. 

Limerick’s Gaelic Grounds, Fitzgerald Stadium in Killarney, Pearse Stadium in Galway, MacHale Park in Castlebar and Páirc Uí Chaoimh are glorified white elephants. 

At best they are filled to a capacity once a year. This is a shocking waste of resources.

On a related topic, while I was delighted to see director general Tom Ryan giving the GAA’s side of the story in relation to the Páirc Uí Chaoimh-Liam Miller testimonial controversy last week, I was taken aback by his use of the word “bullied”.

It highlighted how poor the GAA hierarchy have been in getting their message across on a host of controversies, ranging from the Newbridge-or-Nowhere fiasco to the recent increase in ticket prices.

The GAA communications department would be better employed at putting their own house in order, rather than being on speed dial to RTE and other media outlets when there is negative comment on the association.

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