GAA Football

Dublin GAA funding: enough is enough

Dublin footballers celebrate a third All-Ireland SFC triumph in five seasons last September. Picture by Colm O'Reilly

CHECKING figures on the internet to write this column about GAA games development funding, I thought I'd misremembered some numbers.

For someone whose wife occasionally calls him 'Rain Man', that was quite a shock.

Happily, I wasn't wrong. The report which pointed out that Dublin received MORE for games development than all the other 31 counties – rather than 47 per cent of the total, as I'd recalled – turned out to stem from 2014, not 2015.

Indeed that article began by saying `Not for the first time the GAA has found itself defending an apparent bias in funding towards Dublin'.

Hunting through a `GAA' folder on my computer desktop, I found the Association's financial statements for 2012, which showed a similar scenario.

In fact Dublin received '1.588million in 2012, more than the '1.46m it received over the past two years.

The figures have been similar over the past decade: the games development funding paid to Dublin since a special deal was arranged with the Irish Sports Council in 2005 has now surpassed '16m.

So why has there suddenly been such an outcry about the GAA's Financial Report for last year, and the apparent anomalies in distribution to counties?

Put simply, it seems to be a case of `Enough is enough'.

People may have understood the case for giving the GAA in Dublin, especially Dublin city, a helping hand, boosting gaelic games where it is in serious competition for hearts and minds against soccer and rugby.

Yet surely the GAA is very healthy in Dublin now.

Dublin have won three of the past five football All-Irelands and are favourites to take that run to four out of six seasons.

Their hurlers won the 2013 Leinster SHC and have established themselves as one of the top six sides in the country.

Everyone sensible would accept that the largest concentration of population merits receiving the most money.

However, the ratios are completely off the scale. Dublin county has a population of around 1.3m – just over twice that of Antrim.

Even in a capitalist world it's not right that Dublin receives 30 times as much money as Antrim, when the population is only about twice as large.

Down's population of more than is 530,000 represents about 40 per cent of Dublin; but Down gets less than three per cent of Dublin's games development funding.

Look at other counties with large urban centres, such as Cork: again, around 40 per cent of Dublin's population, but just five per cent of the funding. Galway, 20 per cent of the population, four per cent of the funding.

Derry? About 20 per cent of the population, less than three per cent of the funding.

Look at this another way, in terms of the euro per head of population (let's snappily call that the EPHP).

Based on the 2011 census, Dublin receives around '1.14, only exceeded by lovely, lowly, little Leitrim, with an EPHP figure of 1.23, with Longford on 1.10. The key factor there is that those are the two lowest populated counties in Ireland.

Antrim's EPHP figure is only 0.0766, or just over seven-and-a-half cents in the euro. About 6p per person.

Down isn't much better, at 0.08. Derry does well by comparison, 0.17 (Cork is 0.14). Fermanagh is positively rolling in it with nearly 64 cents per person.

Monaghan, the smallest population in Ulster, has a figure of 0.67. Cavan, is the highest in the northern province, at 0.81. Armagh and Tyrone are both around 0.23, Donegal 0.25.

Some provincial funding does go to counties, of course, but it's a drop in the oceans of cash swimming around Dublin. Especially the vast amounts of sponsorship that the Dub footballers in particular accrue.

Besides, the GAA is supposed to be more communist than capitalist; or, if communism has been discredited by its (bad) practice rather than its theory, the GAA should surely be socialist.

In such a world, the GAA would give much more money to those in greater need, the under-achievers, those with lower levels of participation and population. Leitrim and Longford do get that, but '39,000 and '43,000 respectively wouldn't pay for too many coaches, and many counties only receive around that amount.

GAA Director of Finance Tom Ryan has said that he is "conscious of the discrepancies" and that a "a small group" has been put together to distribute games development funding in "the most equitable way", adding: "We're conscious of the challenges that it poses for counties."

However, he made clear that the allocations wouldn't change at "the drop of a hat".

There's no doubt that Dublin are the biggest draw, as illustrated by the choices for live broadcasts of league matches.

However, All-Ireland Finals always sell out, All-Ireland semi-finals usually do, whether or not Dublin are in them.

If the GAA's financial plan is based on Dublin having to be successful then the Association has a vested interest in Dublin being successful. Think about that.

Of course, other counties can help themselves more. Dublin clubs are co-funding the coaches, as Dublin senior football boss Jim Gavin points out:

"The intelligent thing that Dublin GAA did is invest in people. And that's what they are doing. There is very little capital investment going on in Dublin clubs at the moment. The county board, with that funding, matches it on parity – there's a 50:50 split…

"I just think that Dublin GAA have gone about it smartly. When I'm asked by other counties I encourage them to get on to Croke Park: make their business case for funding for people."

New Antrim chairman Collie Donnelly had already acknowledged that, telling this paper: "As a county committee, we have to try and put our presentation together and go and speak to the powers-that-be about some long-term investment.

"The figures are there for everyone to see and they speak for themselves. The cake doesn't appear to be fairly divided out."

Too true. The important element is that Dublin is given the money to co-fund coaches, many of whom are current players. Other counties don't enjoy that luxury.

Dublin's recent successes aren't all down to money, granted (or otherwise). There have long been certain big beasts in the GAA jungle, and it's likely that there always will be.

Yet all that accumulation of extra funding money adds up, makes for more, better players.

It's only fair that other counties get more money, even if that means reducing what goes into Dublin. As far as funding for Dublin goes, enough is enough.

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