Duffy calls for more funding for smaller counties

Leitrim could receive more funding from the GAA if Director General Padraig Duffy gets his way after he called for a new method of distributing central funds from Croke Park.

Leitrim could receive more funding from the GAA if Director General Padraig Duffy gets his way after he called for a new method of distributing central funds from Croke Park.

Speaking at the launch of his annual report to the GAA Congress, which will be held in Croke on the weekend of February 22/23, Mr Duffy used the example of Leitrim extensively to promote the case of a fairer distribution of GAA funds.

Mr Duffy told journalists at a briefing for his report - “Leitrim has a population of 32,000 people, Longford has 39,000, Carlow has 54,000, Monaghan has 60,000, Roscommon has 64,000, Fermanagh 61,000, Sligo 65,000. Take those seven counties with about 400,000 between them.

“The reality is those counties don’t have the same resources as Dublin,Galway, Cork, Kerry, Antrim, Waterford, Limerick et cetera. They simply cannot generate the same amount of money.

“My issue is very simple. We treat all of our counties exactly the same. We give Leitrim the same direct financial support as we give any of the large-population counties. I think there’s an issue of fairness here. In my view I would like to see a county like Leitrim or Longford or Carlow or Fermanagh getting more money from us.

“Some of the bigger counties with large populations who can generate (their own income) could do with less from us.”

With Leitrim operating on a fraction of the budget of counties like Dublin and expenditures well dwarfed by the likes of Mayo, Donegal and Galway and the traditionally small gate receipts taken in for club games in the county, Mr Duffy’s report highlights the difficulties of the small counties in competing on a level playing field - “It is clear, too, that counties are not competing on equal terms. We are in an era where some counties have backroom teams of up to 20 people; they can afford this back-up by virtue of their success in the top division of the Allianz Leagues, their income from sponsorship and corporate events, and from other fundraising.

“Small counties, by contrast, draw from a restricted pool of players, must survive on lower revenues, and can and can afford minimal backroom support, yet must compete in the same leagues and championships as those with substantially greater budgets.

“These lesser-funded counties incur the same travel, meal and medical costs, but do not have the additional resources and supports to compete on an equal footing. Indeed, some largely rural counties incur greater costs due to players constantly travelling long distances to training from major urban centres.

“Broadly speaking we allocate fixed amounts to all counties, irrespective of whether a county has a population of 50,000 or 500,000, or has 50 clubs or 150 clubs, or is in Division 1 or Division 3 of the Allianz Leagues, etc. It is a model guaranteed to make it very difficult for smaller counties to participate in championships with a prospect of success.

“The only way we can address this issue in such a way as to retain a competitive inter-county model is to devise a fairer method of financial distribution. Given that a significant increase in overall GAA income is unlikely in the next couple of years, this would mean reducing funding for counties with strong ‘gate’ receipts, formidable fund-raising capacity and valuable sponsorship, and increasing direct support to those with lesser resources.

“This will not be easy, and I can imagine a cool reception from those counties whose Central Council funding would be reduced. I wish to make it clear that these comments are in no way directed at counties that have been successful in increasing revenue streams through sponsorship and other corporate supports.

Quite the contrary: these counties are to be commended for their drive and initiative, and it is important that all counties continue to be proactive in this regard.

“My concern is for the predicament of smaller counties, so I would hope that, in 2014, our National Finance Management Committee will undertake a thorough examination of all central funding to counties, with a view to proposing a fairer method of allocation.”

However, Mr Duffy did have veiled words of criticism for county board officials as he commented on the rising costs associated with County teams - “There are few County Committees that are not under financial pressure. The recession of the past five years has contributed to this situation through the fall in revenues from sponsorship and ticket sales, high levels of debt from infrastructural projects, and ongoing difficulties in fundraising.

“A number of counties have sought assistance from Central Council to bring their finances into order while other counties may need support from central level in the year ahead. Falling revenue and increasing debt are a major problem for some, but so, too, is the failure to control costs.

“Counties are spending a large percentage of their income on, in particular, the preparation of senior inter-county teams, while some can afford their current level of spending, many cannot.

“This year, Central Council attempted to establish a register of all individuals working with senior inter-county teams, be they team managers, selectors, coaches, physiotherapists, doctors, psychologists, masseurs, video recordists and analysts, strength and conditioning consultants, nutritionists and others.

“It proved difficult to establish an accurate tally of the number of paid personnel working with some county teams, and thus the cost incurred; the effort to do so must continue in 2014. What can be said is that measures will have to be taken to regulate spending on county teams.

“Funding engagement in inter-county competition, and all that this involves, clearly dominates the time and effort of of Management Committees in many counties, and represents a distraction for for county officers from their key responsibility of developing our games at club level.”