Sunday 18 February 2018

Wexford winning struggle to tackle massive €2.5m debt

Wexford County Board chairman Diarmuid Devereux
Wexford County Board chairman Diarmuid Devereux

Damian Lawlor

WEXFORD County Board chairman Diarmuid Devereux has revealed that the county board has slashed a whopping €800,000 off its €2.5m debt in the past two years.

He insists, however, that they must continue to find ways of reducing their expenditure as they are currently forking out €8,000 per day to run their affairs.

Devereux says the recent progress by Wexford’s senior and under 21 hurlers means that the county is finally beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel after a difficult few years — on and off the field.

“No-one can take away from what Liam Dunne and JJ Doyle are doing and the crowds are starting to come back,” he said. “But we need it because the GAA is a business nowadays. We need crowds behind us. People say you can’t build a team without money, but in the GAA money is absolutely everything these days.

“Last year, for instance, our entire gate receipts for the National Hurling League was €4,600. We only had two games at home. In contrast, Kilkenny brought in around €100,000. Over a ten-year period that’s €1m compared to our revenue of €40,000. How can you compete? You are automatically at a disadvantage.”

Devereux is currently overseeing a special hurling scholarship programme where players, most recently Conor McDonald, Conor Devitt and Liam Ryan, receive some assistance in their third-level education in return for developing their hurling with college, club and county.

The chairman also has radical plans to specifically target the strongest of the 49 football clubs in Wexford to help foster a ‘football-only’ culture in their local national schools to avoid dual player complexities in the future.

“We have enough clubs in both codes to ensure that if things are mapped out properly we can be a top-four county in both hurling and football over the next 10 years,” he maintained.

“That football proposal may sound radical but we’ve had to rethink absolutely everything we have done in the past. The bottom line is that we are spending €8,000 a day on GAA affairs here in Wexford and so much of that was a waste. It was amounting to over €2m a year.

“We still have to make certain expenditures but we are spending more wisely now. Our debt was €2.5m a couple of years ago and we have it down by €800,000. We have sold assets to help kill our debt because we were living off our creditors, with a separate €750,000 in unpaid debts when I came in. That list is cleared now. And we have paid off Wexford Park too, it’s our own now.

“The bottom line now is that hurling is a cash cow in this county and we need Liam and the boys back in the big time. If our supporters see us making progress they will boost our match-day income. And so while the team is getting on with their tireless work, the board is trying to streamline everything else. Apart from effort, money is everything. But provided we don’t make the same old mistakes and ease off the gas, Wexford should be back as a real force for the foreseeable future.”

Devereux admits it took some time to recover from the loss of €357,803 on the purchase and re-sale of lands at Glenbrien, the original choice of venue for the Centre of Excellence, but says he is delighted that progress is well under way at Ferns, the eventual choice for that project, which will open next January.

“We have to keep our feet on the pedal,” Devereux says. “On the field, our lads face the prospect of playing on three and possibly four consecutive weekends and that’s too much to ask of amateur players but we can’t knock those games back when they come either. We would have liked a week off this weekend but we can see from the overall fixture schedule that it just wasn’t possible. We just get on with it. There is no other option.”

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