Diageo plan to offload Iveagh Grounds to TCD reaches impasse

Members of Guinness Athletic Union reject company’s offer

Plans by Diageo to offload an 88-year-old Guinness staff sports facility to Trinity College Dublin have reached an impasse.

Almost 300 members of the Guinness Athletic Union in Drimnagh decided at a meeting on Tuesday to reject an offer from Diageo, including the write-off of a €2 million loan connected with the facility's clubhouse and bar, to ease the transition of ownership.

The 19-acre Iveagh Grounds is home to the St James Gate GAA clubs, football club, and Guinness hockey and rugby clubs,

The union governing the grounds is resisting the terms under which TCD would take over the facility. This is understood to include the annual rent that the union faces to continue to run the clubhouse and bar, and limited future use of sports pitches, as the clubs would share usage with the university.


“For the last number of years, Diageo has been working with a variety of stakeholders to secure the Iveagh Grounds for sporting use, and provide a sustainable future for the GAU,” a spokesman for the drinks group said.

“The proposal put forward by the company reflects the original ambition to preserve the land for sport, while allowing the GAU sports bodies to access the grounds in addition to other rights in relation to the pavilion and bar.”

Diageo said it has offered to provide “significant financial assistance to support the costs of transition over the next few years.” He declined to give specific financial details. A representative of the GAU also declined to comment.

Edward Guinness, the first Earl of Iveagh and great grandson of the stout company's founder Arthur Guinness, bought the site in the 1920s and gave over its use to the GAU. Amid a cost-cutting drive in 1994, the company stopped subsidising employees' membership of the club and, in return, build the current clubhouse.

The aim was to put the facility on a stand-alone financial footing, but it began to build up a deficit in the 2000s as bar receipts fell. While Diageo funded the gap through loans, it decided a number of years ago it needed to cut its ties with the facility.

Sources say that Diageo began talking to TCD two years ago and committed to a multi-million euro investment in redeveloping the playing pitches. Diageo and TCD declined to say how much the university is offering to buy the grounds, however, it is understood to be a fraction of its development value. This reflects the fact that any agreement would restrict its future use to sports and that the grounds need a lot of investment.

Joe Brennan

Joe Brennan

Joe Brennan is Markets Correspondent of The Irish Times