The GAA is typically hesitant to compare its product with other sports, for better or for worse, except it seems when it comes to match ticket prices.
In defending the price hikes for the upcoming league and championship as agreed by Central Council on Saturday – including All-Ireland final tickets increasing by €10 to €90 for stand tickets, and by €5 for Hill 16 tickets to €45 – GAA president John Horan suggested they were still priced "favourably" compared to other major sporting events.
“That was part of the [Central Council] presentation,” said Horan, “and I think we compared favourably to it. We’re offering you a top end final, and everybody knows the impact of the All-Ireland finals in Irish society and their value. Look, you know how much people want to be there.
“We could put another 30,000 or 40,000 in Croke Park for an All-Ireland final. So in that sense, no, I don’t think we’re shooting ourselves in the foot. Time is going to tell and if the economy keeps on going the way it is, I don’t think it’ll be an issue.
“If the economy takes a downturn, well it may impact on it but look, everyone accused us last year of increasing the number of games that were being played because we were all revenue-driven or whatever but that didn’t happen.”
Speaking at the launch of the Allianz Hurling League, Horan also emphasised it was the first such ticket price increase since 2011.
Headline prices for the upcoming national league will increase by a third, or 33 per cent, from €15 to €20. That may impact on overall attendances for 2019, though, again, only time will tell.
“There is that,” said Horan, “but anyone running a business and having a product and you go for a price increase, you’ll always have to take it on board that there’s the law of diminishing returns, that if you up the price, you may diminish your sales.
"At Congress last year, if you remember, I did say that we would do more for the clubs. I'd like to follow through on that and we've increased the club funding and development areas this year by €500,000, it's going up by another €500,000 next year so in the space of two years it'll have gone up by 50 per cent or a million euro. I think it's key at this time when the economy has lifted and clubs probably will take on development projects that we're there to be seen to support them."
“There are still opportunities for people to get the cheaper ticket, if they buy it earlier in the week before the match and the season tickets are there so we’re not trying to exclude people from it or anything like that. But it’s eight years since we did a price increase.
“And it’s rounding it off. If you’re going from €15, where are you going to go? It’s just the nature of the beast. Eight years has been a good while since we did it. It probably won’t happen for another eight to 10 years so, on that basis, you’ll have had one increase in a period of nearly 20 years. I don’t think that’s unreasonable.”
Any additional income from the price increase in the upcoming league will go directly to counties, broken down as follows (clubs will only benefit from championship gate receipts): 10 per cent towards match day costs (stewards, gardaí etc); 10 per cent to venue expenses and upkeep of grounds and pitches, expenses for match day officials; 5 per cent for the GAA Insurance Fund; 6 per cent for the Player Injury Fund (In 2018 there was €9m spent covering 6,000 claims from injured players); 20 per cent to the national pool to be allocated to counties in lower leagues who do not have sufficient income to cover costs (this figure rises to 30 per cent when we reach the concluding stages of the leagues); the balance of less than 50 per cent is divided between the two counties.
“The national league [gate receipts] doesn’t go near clubs, national league is solely for the vendors of the counties,” said Horan, adding the championship gate receipts for 2017 were effectively unchanged.
“Two reasons for that I would say was that the amount of games happened in such quick succession, it just didn’t fit in with family budgets going to two All-Ireland semi-finals in the one weekend and the other thing was we gave up the month of September to clubs and people were away on holidays and that impacted on it a lot.
“We know that there’s a stretch on counties in terms of finances and whatever so rather than be piecemeal and put prices increases over periods of times, when you’re making a price increase in these situations too. I know people might say, ‘Oh God, could it have stayed at that figure?’ But you have to be sensible in terms of change and matches and the turnover.”