Tom Ryan believes that the amount of money being spent on preparing senior inter-county teams is "not sustainable".
In 2019, €29.74 million was spent by the 32 counties on fielding both football and hurling sides. That is a level of expense, an increase of 11.6 per cent from 2018, which the GAA Director General says cannot continue.
Ryan says that spending caps, a measure about which he has reservations, may have to be introduced.
"Indeed, the overwhelming majority of counties returned surpluses this year," Ryan says in his second annual report since taking up the role in 2018.
But that is not the point. This is not sustainable in the long-term – or even in the short-term if we experience an economic reverse.
Quite apart from being sustainable, it is not desirable. Yes, counties will invariably secure the funds they
need, but at the cost of immense pressure on the officers. This outlay represents a huge proportion of our collective resources. So, the other unseen cost is all of the other GAA plans in a county that are foregone or neglected – coaching, club support, facilities and so on.
The origins of these costs are many. The scale of professional expertise engaged with teams is ever increasing, and the size of panels similarly. There is a responsibility at national level too with the extent of the inter-county season.
"The solution may well lie with rules and spending caps," he continues.
"I am hesitant only because our track record with similar rule-based enforcement around county teams is mixed. The solution has to start with a collective recognition that we take collective responsibility and start to reverse the trend now.
"Pressures abound too because of the imperative on us to provide playing facilities, and to maintain them. Financial planning is a critical part of a major infrastructure development or for the day-to-day operations of a county, and budgeting is an integral part of that.
"County budgets are only beneficial if they are realistic. The budget should be approved by the county committee, distilled down to team level and performance tracked against it. Performance against budget will need to become one of the measures by which a county is assessed, and perhaps even funded.
"The challenges are significant, but so too are the resources at our disposal. The greatest single asset we have is our officer cohort, and the value they place in the GAA reputation and the pride they take in their club or county, but the pressure on these people because of finance is huge. Clubs are well run. Counties are well run, but we need to get better."
The GAA's revenue reached a record level in 2019, growing 16 per cent on the previous year to €73.9 million. Increased gate receipts, up 22 per cent in 2019 to €36.1 million, were a major factor in that jump. In particular, the football championship, saw gate receipts increase 43 per cent to €18.2 million. The figures were announced in the association's annual financial report which was released on Tuesday.
Picture credit: Sportsfile