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GAA under pressure over fixture clashes with rugby and soccer

By Martin Breheny

Fixture clashes with major rugby and soccer events will impose a considerable hit on GAA coffers this year.

By early April, big-time rugby will have clashed with three rounds of the Allianz Leagues on Sunday afternoons as well as the AIB All-Ireland club finals on St Patrick's Day, while the Republic of Ireland's participation in Euro 2012 in June may also affect attendances in the early rounds of the inter-county championships.

The refixing of the France- Ireland Six Nations tie for Sunday, March 4 is the latest setback to the GAA, which has 10 NFL games on the same day. The rugby will be televised by RTE, with a 3.0 kick-off, 30 minutes after the NFL games are due to start.

The GAA already took a hit on the opening weekend of the NFL as the Sunday games clashed with Ireland v Wales.

Six Nations games on Sundays have always had a negative impact on attendances at league games.

The rugby-GAA clashes will continue in March and April, while Ireland's final Six Nations game against England is on March 17, the same day as the All-Ireland senior club finals.

There will be another GAA-rugby clash on Sunday, April 8. The crucial last round of games in the NFL (Divisions 1, 2 and 3) are scheduled for 2.30, while the Ulster-Munster Heineken Cup quarter-final kicks off at 1.45.

It's the worst possible time from a GAA viewpoint as it would not be practical to have their games completed by 1.45, nor would it make sense to defer them until after the rugby as it's unlikely that people would travel in late afternoon.

The GAA experimented with a Sunday evening start for the 2006 Kerry-Galway NFL final to avoid a clash with the Munster-Leinster Heineken Cup semi-final, but it backfired as only 7,600 turned out in the Gaelic Grounds.

The GAA is facing no direct clash with any of Ireland's group games at Euro 2012.

However, since the first game (v Croatia) is on Sunday evening, June 12 (7.45) it could impact on the championship games played earlier in the day.

Major international championships tend to have a negative effect on GAA attendances.

The GAA had a largely free run at the sporting landscape last summer and, despite the recession, crowds held up remarkably well.

However, overall gate receipts, full details of which will be published in the next month, are certain to be down on 2010 due to lower ticket prices for the All-Ireland championship (up to the final) and special package deals for the provincial series.

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