Tuesday 15 October 2019

Páirc Uí Chaoimh crisis may scupper other projects


GAA Commercial Director Peter McKenna. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
GAA Commercial Director Peter McKenna. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

The shock news that the running of Páirc Uí Chaoimh has been taken over by Croke Park after redevelopment costs spiralled towards €110m has triggered fears for the future of Casement Park in Belfast.

The GAA has committed to paying €19m towards redeveloping Casement Park, a project currently awaiting the decision on a second planning application. However, they may now undertake a re-evaluation after being left with a €24m overspend in Cork.

Other redevelopment plans could be hit too as the impact of the Páirc Uí Chaoimh overspend becomes clearer.

Staff from Croke Park, led by GAA Commercial Director Peter McKenna, will oversee the running of the Cork stadium in an attempt to turn it into a business that will make a major contribution to paying off the huge debt.

The Páirc Uí Chaoimh redevelopment has been troubled by financial problems for quite some time, but it's only in recent months that the full extent of the crisis became apparent.

The final projected cost was adjusted upwards to €86m last year, but it has now emerged that the final sum of money will be close to €110m, a figure that has stunned the GAA community in Cork and beyond.

Finding an additional €24m is beyond the capacity of the Cork County Board, leaving Croke Park with no option but to intervene.

The first indication that all was not well with the finances emerged in April 2015 when the Irish Independent reported that the Government, which had committed to a €30m grant, withheld payments after expressing concerns that a cost-benefit analysis prepared by Cork County Board was flawed.

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Questions arose over the reliability of projected attendances at non-sporting events, such as concerts.

The first tranche of the grant was held back pending an explanation and while it was paid later, the delay suggested all was not well.

There had been some surprise when the Government first announced the €30m grant, but timing was everything for Cork as the stadium was central to Ireland's bid to host the 2023 rugby World Cup. Otherwise, it's likely that the grant would have been considerably smaller.

The latest worrying development is expected to have implications well beyond Cork, particularly for Casement Park, where the planned redevelopment was estimated at €98m two years ago.

Around 80pc of that figure has been promised from public funds, leaving the GAA to pick up the balance.

In light of the massive overrun in Cork, there many now be a reluctance in Croke Park to commit to another expensive project. Meanwhile, there are fears in Cork that the debt will have serious implications for coaching and spending on inter-county teams.

Irish Independent

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