Counties facing struggle to secure sponsors


GAELIC GAMES:THE ANNOUNCEMENT earlier this week that Tegral, the long-term sponsors of Kildare football, were terminating their relationship with the county has focused attention on the continuing difficulties for counties in securing jersey sponsorship in the midst of a recession.

There was better news for Meath last week with the unveiling of Tayto Park as their new sponsors but it is estimated that around 10 counties at present are either without a commercial partner or at the end of an agreement.

“There’s no doubt that the amount of money is not what it used to be,” according to the GAA’s stadium and commercial director, Peter McKenna. “Marketing spend is affected and sponsorship is often the first thing that gets cut and this is a concern across business in general.

“The sooner we get the 2013 budget details the better so that the impact on disposable income can be worked through because there’s a lot of uncertainty out there, which isn’t helping things either. A lot of sponsorship was generated on the back of the building industry during the boom years and as was seen with Tegral’s withdrawal, that industry has taken a major hit in the past few years.

“But Ireland has also been very successful at attracting companies to set up European bases so it’s not all doom and gloom but it’s definitely going to be harder.”

The biggest counties, such as Dublin or Cork, are effectively national brands and are generally able to attract valuable sponsorship – in Dublin’s case an estimated €1 million per annum, but smaller and less successful counties don’t enjoy that advantage and most of their deals fall into the €70,000 to €100,000 bracket.

It is believed a motion from the latter group for next year’s congress will seek to get approval for the idea of having multi-sponsorships, allowing three panels on county jerseys.

The economic downturn has had a severe impact on what had become traditional income sources: builders and hotels. In many cases the commercial deals were more patronage than sponsorship with wealthy businesses funding counties and clubs because of personal or local ties.

“We’ve advised a number of counties,” says McKenna, “on securing sponsorship. The structure is, however, that counties are independent and that’s one of the strengths of the offering but we can help with how they can best position themselves.”

Meanwhile, the GAA’s Central Competitions Control Committee has stated it is positively disposed towards Friday evening matches. Feargal McGill, the GAA’s head of games administration and player welfare and secretary to the CCCC, was commenting on comments by Leinster chair Martin Skelly that the province was considering staging a championship match on a Friday.

McGill said that last year’s decision not to allow a Dublin-Mayo National League fixture to be played on that day was influenced by the distance between the counties and not the concept.

“In the specific context of that match I would have been critical. What we said at the time was that Dublin-Mayo was not a good example of a Friday night fixture and would effectively disenfranchise a large number of Mayo supporters, who wouldn’t be in a position to get from work to Dublin on a Friday night.

“We can’t be asking players to take time off on a regular basis either but the idea is accepted in under-age fixtures many of which are held mid-week. We would for instance almost certainly have held any replay of this year’s minor final between Dublin and Meath on a weekday evening.”

He added that the committee had intended to play a qualifier fixture on the day this year.

“The CCCC has always accepted the concept of Friday games. In fact we tried to stage the Carlow-Laois qualifier on a Friday night but it didn’t suit the counties in that particular instance.”

Clare’s Séadna Morey last night received the Bord Gáis Energy Breaking Through Player of the Year award in Croke Park. The left-half back was selected from a shortlist of six players which included Clare colleagues Patrick O’Connor and Tony Kelly, in addition to John O’Dwyer of Tipperary and Kilkenny’s Ger Aylward and Walter Walsh.

Morey, who played at corner back for the seniors in this year’s championship, was chosen for his performances during the under-21 campaign, which culminated in the county winning the All-Ireland for the second time in four seasons by defeating Kilkenny in the final.

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