GAA launch research project on the economic impact of games

Researchers in Clones and Thurles surveyed supporters and local businesses on average spend and the overall impacts on trade

The Munster hurling final between Limerick and Clare attracted a bumper attendance to Thurles. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

The GAA research project on the economic impact of Gaelic games was out and about at two recent provincial finals, the Ulster decider in Clones in May and last weekend’s Munster hurling clash in Thurles.

It was announced in GAA director general Tom Ryan’s annual report last February that the research was being undertaken by Sheffield Halam University, leaders in the field since conducting pioneering work for the British government into the economic impact of Euro 96.

Awarded following a tender process, the university is carrying out the study with the assistance of Ulster University and in association with the GAA’s Dr Peter Horgan.

The researchers in Clones and Thurles were surveying supporters and local businesses on matters such as the average spend by people attending the events and the impact on trade.


There have been previous projects in this area, such as that conducted by Dublin club Na Fianna in 2019 and a specific unit of the GAA, the Healthy Club project.

“We have known for a long time that our main events, such as provincial finals, obviously generate income for the locality,” says the GAA’s communications manager, Cian Murphy. “But the detail has been all anecdotal and we were keen to get data so that precise figures could be put on the activities.

“The net is cast fairly wide. For instance, the general locality is also researched, so called ‘pilgrimage routes’ where people have been stopping on the way since they were kids and with their parents for lunch or ice cream et cetera.

“Increasingly this sort of information is expected to be at the fingertips of sports organisations when interacting with Government and in that respect, we have been playing catch-up in compiling these reports.”

Among the observations of the researchers from Sheffield Halam University when looking at the GAA and its community-based, volunteerism model was that it reminded them of the Maori in New Zealand where they had also conducted research into the economics of sport.

“Because Maori sport is comparable to Gaelic games in its emphasis on community and family, they were sceptical that its value could be expressed in monetary terms, but the purpose is just to establish an actual figure rather than to monetise it,” according to Murphy.

He gives the example of the Healthy Club project, administered by former Leitrim footballer Colin Regan. It has been assessed by independent research to generate outputs of €19 for every €1 invested.

It is expected that the research will be further conducted at other matches this summer.

Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times