Sunday 24 February 2019

Gate receipts and attendances for football championship slid alarmingly in 2018 despite the introduction of the Super 8s

Dublin captain Stephen Cluxton lifts the Sam Maguire Cup last September. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Dublin captain Stephen Cluxton lifts the Sam Maguire Cup last September. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Sean McGoldrick

Attendances figures for the All-Ireland football championship dropped by nearly a fifth last year resulting in a twenty three percent reduction in gate receipts, even though there were six more games played.

Overall gate receipts for both the football and hurling series fell by 14% in 2018 to €29.6 from a previous record high of €34.4m in 2017 according to the GAA's annual accounts.

Nearly half of the €4.8m reduction is attributed to the fact that there were two money-spinning football replays in 2017 – the All-Ireland semi-final between Kerry and Mayo and the quarter final between Mayo and Roscommon, whereas there was only one replay this year – the Clare v Galway All-Ireland hurling semi-final.

Worryingly for the GAA attendance figures across both the All-Ireland football and hurling championships dropped by 18% last year.

However, none of these figures take into account the round robin series in hurling in Leinster and Munster which generated additional revenue for the respective provincial councils and boosted attendances figures in the provinces.

Furthermore, there were four fewer games in the All-Ireland hurling qualifiers in 2018 compared to the previous year.

But the picture is altogether less rosy in the football series. The GAA did predict a year ago that the Super 8 series would not prove a financial bonanza for the association and so it proved.

Overall, the average attendances figures at the 39 games in the All-Ireland series – which includes the qualifiers, the Super 8s and the All-Ireland semi-final and final – was 13,225.

In 2017 when there was 33 games played in the football series the average attendance was 19,049.

Overall, the GAA remain very dependent upon a small number of games in the latter stages of the major championships to generate the majority share of the gate receipts.

While more than 800,000 attended the Central Council's championship games in 2018, six of the largest attendances accounted for over half the figure.

Once again the only competitions which generated a profit were the All-Ireland football and hurling championships as well as the All-Ireland U-21 hurling series.

The GAA commercial income increased to €19.6m last year compared to €17.3m in 2017.

The Croke Park stadium generated a surplus of €10.9m in 2018 – they handed over €8m of this to Central Council. This brings the total figure that the stadium has generated for the GAA since 2006 to €108m.

There was a 68pc increase in the stadium's income from concerts and other special events – they hosted four concerts in 2018. Receipts from concerts rose from €2.5m in 2017 to €3.1m last year.

But the fall in attendance figures at the Leinster championship impacted on Croke Park's finances. Income from renting out to the stadium to the Leinster Council decreased by a quarter from €830,000 in 2017 to €623,000 last year.

The attendance at the Leinster hurling final was 32% down on 2017 while there was a 42% year-on-year drop in the attendance at the football decider.

On the vexed question of Games Development grants, Dublin continue to secure a lion share of the €9.6m paid out directly to counties.

Dublin received €1.3m – an increase on last year's figure of £1.2m. Meath were the next biggest recipients with €367,400 but Cork – which has more registered GAA teams than any other county – received just €249,000.

Dublin has now received €17.3m in coaching grants from the GAA since 2007 while Cork are next in the list with €1,434,287.

It was revealed at a press briefing that the GAA's annual insurance premium is €6.5m but they have faced claims of over €20m while the association paid out €7.9m to 6,200 players under the player injury fund in 2018.

Croke Park director Peter McKenna revealed that the GAA's pitch farm in the Naul in north Dublin – which will provide the sod for the stadium's surface from this year on – is also involved in the production of cheese and rosemary oil which is used in the restaurant in the GAA's museum.

He also revealed that the GAA are interested in purchasing Clonliffe College which lies on a 38 acre site adjacent to Croke Park. The Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin had suggested last year that the properly might be sold.

“The deal is subject to Vatican approval and Central Council approval. If this is forthcoming our plan is to develop the site to deliver extensive GAA facilities, a new hotel as well entering into a partnership with a view to delivering social and affordable housing,” said McKenna.

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