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The GAA is not acting like Scrooge and it’s difficult to feel sorry for the ‘wealthy’ Dubs

Coaching and Development Programme is utterly unbalanced – and ought to have been reformed at least a decade ago.

Dublin players and family members celebrate with the Sam Maguire Cup after their 2019 success against Kerry. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile© SPORTSFILE

Chief executive John Costello has done a stellar job guiding the fortunes of the GAA in Dublin. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile© SPORTSFILE

Sean McGoldrickSunday World

Chief executive John Costello has done a stellar job guiding the fortunes of the GAA in Dublin for over more than a quarter of a century.

His job is to prioritise Dublin’s needs. His criticism of a yet-to-be-introduced new structure for how the GAA distributes its multi-million-euro coaching budget was not surprising.

He knew what language to use in order to garner headlines. Here’s how the Irish Independent reported the story.

‘Dublin GAA may have to let employees go and sell assets to offset the gap in funding that will arise for the county after the GAA’s “surreptitious shift” in policy around central coaching and games development grants’.

In his annual report to the Dublin convention, John Costello outlines concerns over the new funding model, which will see a reduction of €447,978 in their annual subsidy from the GAA for the purposes of sustaining a development infrastructure.

The GAA’s new model, based on a variety of metrics around player participation and numbers of clubs in each county, was to come into force on October 1, but has experienced delays in its implementation.

In pointing out that one of the metrics was the number of male players aged from four to 37, he said it was “important” to note the exclusion of funding for female coaches.

He described this as “alarming when one of the current chief aims of the association, under the leadership of former president Mary McAleese, is to integrate GAA, LGFA and Camogie at all levels.”

Costello said he feared the new model had “overextended itself and lost sight of the original intention of this vital funding stream.”

In case anybody gets the impression that the GAA is acting like a modern-day Scrooge when it comes to funding for Dublin, there is another side to the story.

Dublin GAA has done astonishing well from the fund since it was established in 2007. As the table below illustrates they have received €20,751,311.

Next best is Cork, which incidentally has more registered clubs than Dublin, which drew down a mere €2,666,978.

In short, Dublin has received a completely disproportional share of the fund. Granted, it was it was spent well.

Dublin clubs who employ full-time Games Promotion Officers (GPO) have to provide half the GPO’s salary from their own resources. The remainder comes via the Croke Park fund.

But as a national model, it was utterly unbalanced – and ought to have been reformed at least a decade ago.

For example, in 2007 Dublin received a grant of €1.6m from the fund. This figure is greater than the total sum paid to every county since 2007 with the exception of Cork, Antrim, Meath, Derry and Kildare (see table below)

Chief executive John Costello has done a stellar job guiding the fortunes of the GAA in Dublin. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile© SPORTSFILE

Despite rumblings in the media about these inequities there was little sign it would be reformed. Then, in 2021, former Westmeath footballer John Connellan launched a nationwide campaign aimed at ensuring other counties got a bigger slice of the cake.

Though the GAA did not accept his funding model, they were forced to reform how the millions would be distributed in the future. Mind you, though the new scheme was due to be launched in October, we are still awaiting its roll-out.

Dublin ought to be able to absorb the hit. After all, it is, by far, the wealthiest GAA unit in the country.

In 2021, they returned the biggest surplus of any county – €1,115,456 on income of €5,187,295. This was recorded as a €365,456 surplus, because €750,00 was set aside for development projects.

Prior to the outbreak of Covid 19, when its football team was the best in the business, their commercial income was eye-popping.

In 2019, for example, it rose to €2,355,250 – a-year-on-year increase of €801,856. The biggest increase under his heading was in sponsors’ income – from €1.3m in 2018 to £2.1m in 2019.

In short, Dublin are not short of money. Such is its commercial attractiveness, it is in an advantageous position compared to every other county board.

They benefit as well from been able to use Croke Park as their ‘home ground’, which frees them from the burden of having to sink resources into developing a modern stadium.

In contrast, the Cork GAA Board is burdened with debts of over €30m from the ill-advised rebuilding of Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

So, there is no need to rush out and start organising church-gate collections in order to raise a few bob for the Dubs.

Granted, a cut of nearly half a million in their coaching budget is not to be sneezed at. But they knew this day of reckoning was coming for a long time.

What Counties have received from the GAA Coaching and Development Programme 2007-2021

Dublin: €20,751,311 Cork: €2,666,978 Antrim: €2,013,067 Meath: €1,842,072 Derry: €1,736,587 Kildare: €1,710,398 Laois: €1,475,831 Wicklow: €1,467,080 Wexford: €1,442,197 Louth: €1,427,534 Tipperary: €1,401,551 Galway: €1,392,585 Kerry: €1,389,261 Offaly: €1,354,575 Carlow: €1,345,0:01 Waterford: €1,309,545 Limerick: €1,249,395 Westmeath: €1,227,047 Clare: €1,151,196 Kilkenny: €1,083,927 Roscommon: €1,073,556 Cavan: €1,024,580 Armagh: €1,007,485 Mayo: €1,000,066 Monaghan: €981,977 Donegal: €981,917 Longford: €969,930 Sligo: €953,166 Leitrim: €949,758 Fermanagh: €910,204 Down: €907,395 Tyrone: €900,647

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