Connacht GAA President and Cloone native Gerry McGovern has issued a bleak warning of the challenges facing GAA Clubs and County Boards in the coming months
Gerry McGovern is not a man given to hyperbole so when the long serving GAA official warns of the consequences facing clubs and county boards, it is wise to pay heed to his words as the Cloone man warns of a potential disaster facing the organisation he has served for so long.
A sombre financial outlook at this year’s Leitrim GAA County Board Convention prompted the current Connacht GAA President and former Leitrim County Board chairman to chat to the Observer about the crisis facing the GAA at every level.
“While Dublin celebrate their historic six in a row, the wider GAA fraternity face a financial crisis,” Gerry told the Observer, “As this is the time, when Clubs plan their programme’s for the year ahead, a time when they appoint their team management and backroom teams, it is vital that we take cognisance of their financial situation.
“They say that money is the root of all evil, unfortunately for the GAA it is the lack of finance that is going to be the biggest headache for our National organisation at all levels. The ravages of Covid 19 have a trail of financial disaster for GAA at Club, County Provincial and National level.”
Big headlines about organisations losing millions and revenues being lost give you the big picture but Gerry worries about the impact at a much lower level, the impact on clubs struggling to survive!
“The financial consequences of the Covid pandemic has denied GAA clubs, and indeed County Boards of all avenues of fundraising, whether it be gate receipts, the weekly lotto draw, the sale of yearly tickets or any of the various novelty fundraising that have kept GAA club afloat in the past.
“Quite a number of GAA Clubs will have difficulty in finding the necessary funds to affiliate their respective teams in the present situation,” warns the long serving official.
And it is not a situation Gerry sees improving in the short term: “With the present Covid restrictions, and the possibility of further restrictions, GAA clubs or County Boards cannot realistically expect the same level of sponsorship that they have enjoyed in the past.
“During the early stages of Covid 19 restrictions in 2020, all GAA activity came to a halt, and there was serious doubt about whether we would have any GAA activity at all in 2020. Were it not for Government funding, we would certainly not have an All-Ireland Series, and doubts would be cast over the running of internal County competitions as well.
“While this Government funding has been a life blood to the GAA activities, we certainly cannot be guaranteed that this funding will be available for the year ahead, and if it is not available, it will put question marks over whether we can have any form of GAA activity at all.”
The financial impact on Croke Park means that clubs and counties cannot expect GAA headquarters to bail them out: “Expectations of funding from Croke Park is ill advised because the projected losses for the Association for 2020 is in the region of €35 million and if the restrictions continue, which they are likely to, losses to the National association could be even greater.
“The GAA nationally is not in a position to fund any developments at any level and this in effect will have huge complications for all GAA activities throughout the Country.”
The Provincial President also called on the Government to continue their funding but warned that the Association face a bleak future if funding does not become available: “Government and GAA funding kept the pulse beating during 2020 and if this is not available in the year ahead, we are looking at a very bleak future for the association in the year ahead.
“The provision of Gaelic games is so vitality important to the fabric of rural Ireland, and we all saw that during the recent lockdown, so it is now more important that Government funding is made available so we can all enjoy our Calendar of Gaelic games at all levels.”
McGovern concludes by urging clubs and County Boards to ensure that all aspects of expenditure is examined to ensure that they are not spending money they simply do not have: “Never before do we need to scrutinise our expenditure in the minutest detail.
“Like never before, all aspects of expenditure on GAA activities need to carefully scrutinised and vigilantly applied only to what is vitally necessary, because if you spend what you haven’t got or likely to get you will accumulate a financial crisis further down the road that nobody will want to be associated with, and this will have major consequence for our great organisation.”
Wise words and words to act on now.