‘It could be 15 years before we can replenish that €25m’ - GAA feeling the Covid pinch

GAA warns that association will have to adapt to smaller revenues than before

The GAA estimates it will take a number of years for the losses of the two Covid years to date to wash through the system. The combined deficit for 2020 and ‘21 was reported as €25.2 million.

Finance director Ger Mulryan was asked how they intended to pay it off.

“I suppose the collective damage is €25.2m in purely financial metrics. The intent to try and manage how we move that forward would be to establish a pattern of retaining a small surplus annually.

“Traditionally our model was to almost redistribute everything we take in back through our organisation so the repair work entails trying to retain a small surplus annually so it could be five, 10, 15 years before we can replenish that €25m.”


This is despite state supports of around €50 million, which include direct subvention of €29 million for last year, €18 million for 2020 plus the Government wage subsidy scheme, which the association availed of during the period.

This compares with pre-pandemic public funding of €6 million in 2019, which saw record GAA revenue of €73.9, €10 million more than the previous year in 2018.

Figures for 2021 show income running at €68.2 million but that is qualified by the Government funding of nearly €30 million and the fact that earnings from two championships - 2020 and 2021 - were included in the same financial year, a once-off occurrence reflecting the winter championship of 2020, which was played behind closed doors.

Commercial and media income proved robust, however, coming in at €26.2 million over the two championships. The return of gate receipts with crowds allowed back in 2021 was worth €11.6 million - as opposed to €36 million in the pre-pandemic year of 2019.

Accounts show an operating surplus for last year of €47 million, which after distributions to various units and in development grants left a net surplus of €1.9 million.

Given that the association had recorded a surplus, had it been under consideration that some of the Government funding could have been returned?

“No, is the short answer,” said GAA DG Tom Ryan. “I’m not being flippant now when I say that we haven’t. I think if you look at the burden that was suffered by clubs, provinces, counties and at national level over the last two years, I think that’s the metric.

“Oddly enough, the results are a bit distorted because you’re looking at a financial year where we played two championships. It’s difficult to compare and it would be a mistake to assume that all the financial problems that we had have been overcome.

“We still have a little bit of damage for a while to come. Make no mistake, we were very, very grateful for that support and we wouldn’t have got through without that support but we made a case for it, a very careful case, and that case was scrutinised I’m sure and listened to so what we got was based on a need and the need was genuine and the need is still there.”

In his report, Ryan warned that the association in future may have to adapt to smaller revenues than pre-Covid, saying, “indications are that any future revenue growth will be far more modest. In global terms we are a small organisation with a small potential market - be that for commercial partnership or spectator revenue”.

Croke Park Stadium dividends to the GAA totalled €117.5 million in the 14 years to 2019 and had hit a record €10.5 million in the last pre-pandemic year but for the two years since, no dividend has been paid, as the stadium has made losses both years.

Stadium director Peter McKenna was confident that the stadium would return to profitability in 2022 with a full schedule of matches plus seven concerts, divided between Ed Sheeran (two) and Garth Brooks (five).

Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times