Duffy proposes redistribution in favour of poorer counties

GAA Director General calls in annual report for review of ’inequitable level of funding’

GAA director general Páraic Duffy has proposed a redistribution of association resources in favour of smaller counties. In his annual report, which was launched yesterday – two months earlier than usual, as the organisation’s annual congress has now been moved from April to February – in Croke Park, Duffy speaks of his concern at the inequality in national funding.

He also said that he hoped that Croke Park would address the issue in the year ahead. In his report he draws comparisons between the resources available to some counties under the heading of general biggest expenditure – senior county teams.

Restricted pool
"It is clear, too, that counties are not competing on equal terms. We are in an era where some counties have backroom teams of up to 20 people; they can afford this back-up by virtue of their success in the top division of the Allianz Leagues, their income from sponsorship and corporate events, and from other fundraising.

“Small counties, by contrast, draw from a restricted pool of players, must survive on lower revenues, and can afford minimal backroom support, yet must compete in the same leagues and championships as those with substantially greater budgets.

“These lesser-funded counties incur the same travel, meal and medical costs, but do not have the additional resources and supports to compete on an equal footing. Indeed, some largely rural counties incur greater costs due to players constantly travelling long distances to training from major urban centres.

“The inequitable levels of funding available to counties lead us to question our own current model of funding to counties, an issue that has recently been raised by an t-Uachtarán, Liam Ó Néill.”

Asked at yesterday’s media launch of the report in Croke Park would such a fundamental re-appraisal of central disbursement policy not be very difficult to implement, Duffy agreed but responded to the media briefing with figures to illustrate the inequalities.

"I'll just throw a few figures at you: Leitrim has a population of 32,000 people, Longford has 39,000, Carlow has 54,000, Monaghan has 60,000, Roscommon has 64,000, Fermanagh 61,000, Sligo 65,000. Take those seven counties with about 400,000 between them. The reality is those counties don't have the same resources as Dublin, Galway, Cork, Kerry, Antrim, Waterford, Limerick et cetera.

“They simply cannot generate the same amount of money. My issue is very simple. We treat all of our counties exactly the same. We give Leitrim the same direct financial support as we give any of the large-population counties. I think there’s an issue of fairness here.

“In my view I would like to see a county like Leitrim or Longford or Carlow or Fermanagh getting more money from us. Some of the bigger counties with large populations who can generate (their own income) could do with less from us.”

The issue has been brought into focus in the past year by Dublin although Duffy emphasises that he isn’t being critical of bigger counties but rather protective of smaller, less-resourced units.

The All-Ireland champions have signed high-profile sponsorship deals in recent years, worth in the region of €1m annually and whereas the county was always a draw for sponsors with its big population, the recent success on the playing fields has created apprehension about the contrasting income available to most other counties.

With the GAA battling the economic difficulties in the country in the past five or six years, there is little prospect – as the report makes clear – of new revenue streams to fund enhanced financing of smaller counties.

"Given that a significant increase in overall GAA income is unlikely in the next couple of years, this would mean reducing funding for counties with strong 'gate' receipts, formidable fund-raising capacity and valuable sponsorship, and increasing direct support to those with lesser resources.

Funding model
"This will not be easy, and I can imagine a cool reception from those counties whose Central Council funding would be reduced. However, it is an issue that must be tackled. Our current funding model gives more to those who have most.

"This is an issue of basic fairness, so I would hope that, in 2014, our National Finance Management Committee will undertake a thorough examination of all central funding to counties, with a view to proposing a fairer method of allocation."

At the end of the media conference Duffy was asked whether would be his last year as director general, as 2015 marks the end of his original seven-year appointment. He batted the question back to GAA president Liam Ó Néill, who was forthright in his response.

“I’ll lay my cards on the table and am quite happy to do it. I certainly hope not and I’d say the majority of this organisation would certainly hope not.”

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