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County boards budgeting for at least 60 per cent reduction to income

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The GAA is facing huge losses due to the impact of Covid-19. Photo: Sportsfile

The GAA is facing huge losses due to the impact of Covid-19. Photo: Sportsfile

The GAA is facing huge losses due to the impact of Covid-19. Photo: Sportsfile

Behind the headline figure of a €60m loss to the GAA at central level if there are no inter-county championships in 2019, the trickle-down effect and impact on county boards will be just as severe with many budgeting for a loss of income of 60 per cent and above, particularly if local club championships don't proceed.

While the human losses to Covid-19 have been foremost in importance in Association minds, and the social loss of padlocked gates is also keenly felt, the financial loss will present other varied challenges in the months and years ahead.

For many counties, club championship gate receipts and the sponsorships that accrue from that are their lifeblood.

While the €10m-plus that was generated in the 32 counties in 2019 through local gates pales beside the €49.3m that inter-county games took in (€36.1m centrally, €13.2m provincially), gates can go a long way to cushioning the running of other aspects of a board's business apart from the administration of county teams which, in most cases, represents between 40 per cent and 60 per cent of their outgoings.

To counties like Galway and Limerick, which generated two of the top three figures for gate receipts for local championships in 2019, loss of club gates would be significant.

Galway came close to taking in €1m in 2019, while Limerick's haul was €713,692. Only Cork divided them.

Commercially, through team sponsorships, local competition sponsorships, signage, advertising and other product endorsements and business arrangements, counties collectively took in close to €13m, beyond the €5m the GAA generated for association with its flagship competitions.

Some of those commercial arrangements may have to be renegotiated because of lost exposure, especially with businesses that have been impacted by Government restrictions.

Relationships between boards and their sponsors tend to be strong and long-lasting and if there is to be some salvation for hard-pressed boards, it will be the retention of some or all of this money, even if no further games go ahead. Limerick treasurer Liam Bourke said a predicted decrease of between 50 per cent and 60 per cent would be "fair enough" where they are concerned though no outline projections have been made.

"Where we will be down is our share of our Munster Championship gate and our club gates," he revealed.

Last year, just four counties ran accounting deficits at the end of their financial year but Bourke said he would be amazed if any county ran a surplus for 2020, deeming it "just not possible."

While there will be large decreases in expenditure, particularly in servicing inter-county teams, much of those costs are front-loaded from December through to March, he explained.

"You could go out of the championship in June as opposed to August with maybe an eight-week difference but you'll have had most of the costs regardless, You are still training from November up to June, much of the costs are front-loaded in the early months," Bourke said.

"We had a surplus of about €150,000 last year. God only knows where we are going to be at the end of this year, it's very hard to know for certain.

"We had budgeted for a fall anyway because we hosted the Munster hurling final last year and we had two club replays."

Limerick were planning a Punchestown race day and had a projection of €50k for a golf classic. Connections with US-based Limerick support, particularly in New York, had grown stronger with plans being developed for fundraising this year that now look like being shelved.

Galway treasurer Mike Burke agreed that a big deficit is unavoidable, especially if club gates are lost. They too were planning fundraising events in New York around their now-aborted visit to play their opening Connacht Championship game there next weekend.

Burke acknowledged spending will be down but can't see how a deficit in the region of 20 per cent can be avoided with income down in the region of 50 per cent to 60 per cent.

He too felt fundraising into the future will be the biggest financial fallout from the virus impact.

Support from Croke Park will be limited too. League dividends have already been paid out, down on other years for all counties with the last two rounds and the finals not being played to date, while the €185,000 grant, largely derived from sponsorship and broadcast revenues, paid out in 2019 is expected to be much smaller in 2020.