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GAA reports revenue rise, moves to tackle pitch concerns

The Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) was able to distribute a record amount of income to counties and clubs in 2017 after revenue rose to €65.6m ($81.7m), while the organisation has moved to address concerns over its playing surfaces by acquiring a farm to grow its own pitches.

The GAA reported that full-year revenue was up €5m on 2016, with gate receipts responsible for €35m, or 52 per cent, of this total. The GAA reported an upturn in gate receipts across almost all of its competitions, but it was the Football League that generated the most revenue for the organisation.

The overall increase in revenue meant that the GAA Central Council was able to pay out €14.8m for its counties and clubs to underwrite operating costs and defray the cost of their participation in various GAA competitions.

The GAA also invested more than €10m on games development and coaching in 2017, as well as over €9m on capital investments and grants, in excess of €6m on player welfare, more than €12m on match and competitions, and over €10m on administration.

Tom Ryan, finance director at the GAA, said that although he is satisfied that the organisation is in a “sound financial state”, he said the amount of money being spent on inter-county teams and the rising cost of insurance are two areas that “demand corrective action”.

“Foremost among our financial risks is the cost that counties continue to incur in preparing teams,” Ryan said. “We should seek to measure ourselves collectively next year on how those costs are managed and controlled. We should also strive to increase self-sufficiency. The long-term financial health of our counties depends on it.

“On the club front, fielding teams and making ends meet is not easy. I expect that for many 2018 will be no different. For as long as that continues to be the case, no matter how healthy affairs at Central Council might appear, there will be no room for financial complacency.

“Nevertheless our members can be assured the Association faces the coming year in a sound financial state. Central Council financial results continue to be encouraging, and the trend among our counties is similar.”

Meanwhile, the GAA has purchased a farm in North Dublin to grow pitches, in response to concerns regarding the impact that staging concerts at its stadia is having on playing surfaces.

Last summer, the GAA’s showpiece Croke Park Stadium (pictured) in the Irish capital staged U2 and Coldplay music concerts. The venue then played host to a number of sporting events, but the quality of the pitch was criticised by various parties. The GAA previously imported new pitches from the UK but has now acquired a 50-acre farm for a reported €700,000.

Croke Park director Peter McKenna told the Irish Mirror newspaper: “We measure the pitch and the pitch characteristics on a continuous basis, so I would have been happy if not ecstatic with the way the pitch was after the concerts last year.

“The real issue came that there was a very, I wouldn’t say severe, but there was a drought in the UK so it meant the ideal type of surface we wanted wasn’t available. It was just too flimsy.

“So you add to that the risk of harvesting out there, shipping it, taking it across the sea, to reduce the time but also to have it growing closer to us and have a lot more pitches growing, that takes that risk away. That really was to de-risk the issue and then see can we make this something which is going to be profitable as well.”

McKenna also said that the GAA could eventually sell pitches grown at the farm to help generate additional revenue. McKenna said: “There is no reason when it comes to the time, that we won’t be able to export the pitches.

“What we have here, climatically, is a far better set-up than a lot of Europe, where it is frosty and frozen. But that is down the line.”