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financial strain How GAA counties managed cost of Covid

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Derek Kent. Photo: Sportsfile

Derek Kent. Photo: Sportsfile

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Derek Kent. Photo: Sportsfile

It should have been a whitewash. With few, if any, going through the turnstiles as paying patrons to club games and no gate revenue from a summer inter-county championship, the GAA's chief revenue-raiser, the financial strain on GAA county boards in 2020 should have been overbearing.

But the picture for counties isn't as bad as the initial projections last April and May - at least not at face value. Losses of €400,000 to €500,000, flagged as worst-case scenarios, did not materialise for most.

The year ahead, with far less Central Council and State support and only a slim prospect of much-needed local gate receipts, will be much more challenging but for 2020 county boards, for the most part, were able to stave off catastrophes.

It helped that there were still five rounds of the league played before the pandemic brought activity to a halt, generating revenue that was filtered back down to the counties.

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State support, through Sport Ireland, of €50,000 was also provided while a Central Council grant of €80,000, coming out of the broadcasting and sponsorship revenue, was also paid. Most of the State support worth almost €15m for the running of the championship also filtered down to counties prior to October 31.

Many counties were able to retain a sizeable portion of their commercial and sponsorship agreements too, despite the pressures some of those companies may have been under.

The running of the Cúl camps, first and foremost a coaching and games development initiative built around enjoyment, also delivered an unexpected return for many counties though not in line with other years while streaming of local club games provided a surprising windfall.

On the expenditure side, there were significant savings on team costs which can generally amount to between 40 per cent and 60 per cent of overall expenditure.

Snapshot Of the 31 accounts - Antrim don't make their figures available - 15 have recorded a surplus while 16 are in deficit.

Income and expenditure accounts provide only a snapshot financial picture, however, in line with the end of the GAA's financial year, October 31, which is being moved back to the end of September this year. Lists of debtors and creditors are not part of this analysis so it must be assumed that some counties will have been able to push some bills out beyond the October 31 deadline and will therefore have performed worse than the figures suggest.

In many cases, the money owed to creditors is greater than that due to debtors, though 'cash at bank and in hand' revenue tends to build a more positive outlook.

Clare GAA has been one of the hardest hit, especially when the loss on a land sale at Caherlohan, their training centre location, is factored in.

Classed as an 'exceptional item' in their accounts, the loss came to €195,575 which, when added to €282,784 in yearly losses, registered a total loss of €478,359. The land was part of the original purchase.

Clare's income drop for 2020 is almost €1.5m - from €2.2m in 2019 down to just €799,785. Last year Clare GAA recorded a profit of €257,277 so it amounts to a swing of almost €750,000 in one year.

Clare did generate €39,000 from streaming of local championship games but fundraising had no return, despite warnings of a need to improve on that at the 2019 convention, while revenue from summer camps dipped significantly from €515,440 last year to €165,841. Once again Clare's financial report advises of a grave situation developing in the county.

Having enjoyed a healthy €1m profit in 2019, Dublin were in deficit in 2020, €172,847 when a Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme Payment of €684,974 is factored into its income schedule and an interest payment of €262,642 is classed as expenditure.

Dublin saw significant falls under two categories, commercial income and club affiliations. Commercial income is Dublin's 'jewel in the crown' and in 2019 the overall figure was €2,170,250. When a payment of €80,000 from Croke Park out of the broadcasting and sponsorship revenue is stripped out, this payment went to every county, the commercial return is €1,397,917. Dublin's affiliations, as of October 31, were €279,785, down from €1,147,315 though there may be some pick-up on that in the current financial year as clubs strive to get back on their feet.

Season tickets are one of Dublin's biggest earners but with a truncated season, that dipped from €502,066 in 2019 to €270,934 in 2020.

Wages and pension payments for the Dublin GAA staff amounted to €505,883 while the cost of their commercial management came in at €107,344.

Perhaps the most impressive year-on-year financial performance from any county was Wexford's who returned a profit of €507,228, up from €369,422 in 2019.

Former chairman Derek Kent (left), who brought his chairmanship to an end last December after four years, put it down to rigid adherence to the budgets they set out for themselves once it became clear that adjustment in the face of a pandemic was required. Wexford increased its season ticket revenue from €87,340 to €91,724 while commercial and fundraising revenue only took a marginal dip from €989,739 to €741,660.

Cavan enjoyed a healthy profit too for 2020 with their once-off 'Win The Dream' house draw realising €556,060 and €212,309 coming from the sale of land. That pushed their income to €1,967,616 and a profit of €775,863.

Debt-free Derry GAA has declared itself debt-free after clearing a £650,000 (€730,000) loan by the end of the last financial year. They now have £6.2m (€7m) in assets and a net surplus for the year (2020) of £201,440 (€226,075). The county's current 'cash at bank and in hand' sits at £116,874, up from £28,037 in 2019.

Down recorded a £117,469 (€131,840) deficit but could still set aside £100,619 towards planning, design and surveys for their development centre in Ballykinlar and reduced a loan owed to Croke Park by a further £100,000.

One of the most impressive financial performances has to be Kildare. In 2012, so perilous were their financial affairs, that just a few years ago they couldn't sign a cheque without Croke Park clearance after requiring a bail-out. But they recorded another healthy surplus for 2020, €243,230, almost half the €484,989 returned in 2019. This has allowed them to continue to set aside support for their St Conleth's Park redevelopment, €100,000 from 2020.

Their Club Kildare contribution was up to €261,567, underlining their ability to fundraise and gather contributions, even in a pandemic.

Cork GAA owes some €21.56m in bank loans and a further €11.98m to Croke Park as its redevelopment of Páirc Uí Chaoimh continues to weigh heavily. The figures for Cork presented here do not reflect stadium business which is dealt with in two other accounts but instead details day-to-day income and expenditure.

Between the three accounts, Cork county board, Stad Cois Laoi (which runs the stadium) and the stadium account itself, Páirc Uí Chaoimh, there was a loss of €914,619 before depreciation, interest, tax and amortisation are factored in. The board account showed a loss of €104,884 and with little activity because of Covid in the months ahead, Cork will struggle with paying off the redevelopment costs.

Another county which has experienced financial troubles in recent years, Galway, came in with a €336,488 deficit but only after considerable depreciation was applied.

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