Scale of Dublin AIG sponsorship deal puts All-Ireland champions in different league

Dublin chairman Andy Kettle plays down sum as county now covering all codes


If the scale of Dublin’s new sponsorship deal with US insurance giant AIG – worth at least €4 million over the next five years – didn’t ring some alarm bells with rival counties then the timing of it certainly did, at least in Kildare.

Club delegates were gathering in Newbridge on Tuesday evening to ratify Jason Ryan as new Kildare football manager for 2014, and just as they were taking their seats, word came through that Dublin would be supported through to 2018 with the sort of financial backing that most other counties can merely dream of.

Against that backdrop, Ryan was ratified for a one-year term – to be renewed after 2014 – and with that set out to do what Kieran McGeeney couldn’t do after a six-year term, and beat Dublin to the Leinster football title. If money is at least one of the roots of success then Kildare’s task of beating Dublin, like everyone else in the country, has not been made any easier.

Yet according to Kildare chairman John McMahon it’s all relative, if only in the financial sense: this time last year, Kildare lost long-term sponsors, Tegral, and were several months searching for a replacement before signing a new deal with Brady Family Ham. A fully Irish-owned company, established in 1978 and based in Timahoe, Brady Family Ham might lack the global profile of AIG, which offers insurance products in over 160 countries and battles for position on the New York Stock Exchange, but according to McMahon, it’s as good as it gets for a county like Kildare.

So while some Kildare delegates spoke with apparent concern about Dublin’s new deal, McMahon spoke yesterday about the reality of it all. “No, I wouldn’t use the word ‘concern’,” said McMahon. “There was just a general comment, at our meeting, that the news had just broken. And fair play to Dublin, who have the profile to attract that sort of sponsorship, and every other county in the country would be looking to raise their profile in the same way, and attract as good a sponsorship deal as possible.”

Naturally, McMahon declined to reveal the exact financial worth of the Kildare sponsorship (“commercially sensitive” being the standard response); nor was he willing to reveal how long the deal would run for, other than the fact Kildare were glad to have it. “Yes, that’s between ourselves and our sponsors. But certainly the market has tightened, that’s the reality. Sponsors have to be looked after, have to be nurtured, and from a Kildare point of view, we certainly try to do what we can for our sponsors, look after them, and hope our relationship can continue.

“Now, it is a substantial sum of money going Dublin’s way, but it’s not our business to worry about what sponsorship arrangements other counties might have. This certainly gives Dublin a lot of leeway to do what other counties would aspire to do. But again, we’re perfectly happy with our sponsor. Kildare still aspire to be at the same level of success as Dublin, and that’s something we’ll still try to achieve.”

Dublin chairman Andy Kettle found himself in the slightly unusual position yesterday of having to both play up and play down the extent of the AIG deal, and again, at least the timing of it. While it’s certainly nice Dublin will be starting wearing the AIG logo as All-Ireland football champions and Leinster hurling champions, the deal itself was drawn up long before that success came about, given the fact Vodafone announced back in March that they wouldn’t be renewing their sponsorship deal beyond the 2013 season, having backed Dublin for four years, starting in December 2009.

Kettle was adamant that Dublin were essentially replacing “like with like”, and given the fact the AIG deal not only takes in the county’s footballers and hurlers through to 2018, but also the Dublin women’s footballers and camogie players, who for the first time are included “under the one sponsorship umbrella”, there may actually be less money floating around.

“I really wouldn’t see why other counties would be worried about a deal like this,” said Kettle. “Because all we’ve really done here is to replace like with like, from a financial point of view. We’re not going to be able to do anything significantly different from what we did under the last sponsor.”

Leading counties
Kettle also played down the notion Dublin now have far greater financial backing than any other county, given the AIG deal is estimated to be at least twice what other leading counties could attract, including Cork, seen as Dublin’s nearest rival in the sponsorship stakes.

“Again, that’s a slight exaggeration. It’s also the first time any county has included all codes, although I’m open to correction on that. But it’s certainly in line with the thinking of GAA president Liam O’Neill, who feels this is the way we should be progressing.

“It’s happened already at club level, in that most clubs are integrated, across all the different codes. Camogie are under the wing anyway, but there are moves to bring women’s football under the same wing too.

“We are sitting on a huge population, obviously, but we’re not sitting on a huge Gaelic playing population. Part of our function as a county board is to increase participation rates in the GAA. We wouldn’t spend any more than most of the top counties on our intercounty teams, and most of the money goes back to the grassroots, and is not used for elitism.

“We’re a county with 92 clubs, over 4,000 adult games, over 9,000 juvenile games. It’s a big operation, and that necessitates a fair deal of finance to keep it ticking over.”

Kettle also addressed potential criticism of Dublin launching a new jersey next month, just in time for the Christmas market, by suggesting some sort of trade-in deal may be set up, where jerseys with the Vodafone logo can be part-exchanged for those with the AIG logo: “Nothing has been finalised, but it is always one way of ‘washing out’ the old jerseys, as such. It’s something we have to talk with AIG about, but the possibility is there, of offering some sort of trade-in.”