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IN THE BLACK The GAA is in rude health financially, thanks to the taxpayers

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The GAA's director general Tom Ryan with financial reports at Croke Park, Dublin. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

The GAA's director general Tom Ryan with financial reports at Croke Park, Dublin. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

The GAA's director general Tom Ryan with financial reports at Croke Park, Dublin. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

THE GAA will forever owe a depth of gratitude to the taxpayers of Ireland.

Since March 2020 the government has handed over €48,617,997 in direct payments to the GAA.

Indirectly, it has contributed another few millions in wage subsidies for full-time GAA employees.

Even with this generous handout, the GAA estimates the pandemic cost them €25m.

Nonetheless, financially, the association has bounced back strongly.

An indication of their rude health is that all the suites available for sale in Croke Park last year were snapped up.

With seven concerts planned for the stadium later this year, Croke Park is bang on course to start contributing again to the coffers after a two-year break

Nationally, the GAA posted a surplus of €47m in 2021 – compared to €49.8m in 2019 and €3.1m last year.

Even without last year’s government subsidy of €29.7m the association would have been in the black, to the tune of over €17m.

This is only part of the story – the 32 county boards recorded a surplus of €8.3m, with the four provincial councils posting a surplus of €3.3m.

The GAA, of course, does not sit on large surpluses. Nationally, all but €1.9m of it was redistributed to the counties.

But the GAA leadership are still preaching caution.

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“It would be a mistake to assume that all our financial issues have been resolved,” said GAA director general Tom Ryan, who added that the association had not considered returning the government grant.

The turnaround in the GAA’s financial fortunes was due to several factors, including a technical issue in relationship to changing their accounting year.

The accounts published yesterday were for an 11-month period from end of October 2020 to September 30, 2021, which included the 2020 and 2021 All-Ireland finals.

Though the 2020 finals were held behind closed doors they still generated income, via existing sponsorship and TV rights deal. This figure is included in the 2021 accounts.

As a result, revenue from this source increased from €9.1m in 2020 to £26.9m last year.

Furthermore, even though it was only in the latter stages of the 2021 All-Ireland series that restricted attendances were allowed, gate receipts increased from a paltry €3.6m in 2020 to €11.6m last year. But this figure is still a long way short of the record €36m generated in gate receipts in 2019.

The pandemic had a huge impact on two important aspects of GAA activity – capital projects and games development.

In the 11-month period covered the GAA paid out a paltry €169,363 in capital grants, while spending on games development projects in 2021 was €4.6m, compared to €11.6m in 2019.

Again, Dublin were the biggest recipients, with a grant of €745,278 which brings their overall figure close of €21m since the fund was launched in 2007.

However, change is on the way in how the fund, which is to be increased to €12m annually, will be distributed.

“The new model will bring greater ownership locally, but we also will want to see increased accountability. What we hope to have in place is a model that will deliver for each county.”

It is envisaged that a quarter of the annual budget would be devoted to special projects, which individual counties can apply to be funded – and if approved could run for up to four years.

The remainder of the funding would be allocated along the following lines: 60 per cent based on player numbers, 25 per cent based on the number of clubs and 15 per cent based on participation rates.

Ryan said it was likely there would be a ‘diminution’ in the level of funding to one county and an increase in funding to most counties.

Acknowledging that the financial landscape of the association had improved last year, Ryan said financial returns ‘will never be our priority.’

“A good or bad GAA year is characterised by what happens on the field and not the income statement.

“The last two years were severely damaging for the association, because of the impact on our members and our games. Yes, the financial damage was significant, but collateral.

“The financial challenge is to generate enough resources to fulfil our ambitions, and I know we will recover that.”

There were no champagne corks popping in the GAA museum yesterday, where the accounts were published.

Nonetheless, the take home message is the GAA has emerged in rude health financially from the pandemic – thanks to a lot of help from us the taxpayer.

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