Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 12 July 2014

Third of counties deeper in debt

Croke Park

A growing number of county boards are failing to balance their books on an annual basis, as an analysis of the audits of the 32 counties reveals.

With warning shots being fired from senior administrators as late as last Monday when Leinster chief executive Michael Delaney highlighted the issue in some counties in his province, it has emerged that over a third of all county boards ran deficits for 2011.



It's a worrying development for the GAA, whose units have, by and large, always had the ability to balance their books effectively.



But with sponsors unable to meet obligations and revenue streams falling faster than costs in many cases, on top of greater depreciation estimates, the number of counties in the red on a year-to-year basis appears to be growing.



The largest annual deficit was recorded in Westmeath, which came in with a loss of close to €250,000.



They had to write off sponsorship money owed and a loan to a subsidiary board, and with a one-off medals bill to address as well, these exceptional items contributed significantly to their loss. For a county of its size it was a serious deficit to have to deal with.



The problems in Kildare, Tipperary and Waterford have been well documented as they too recorded six-figure deficits.



Tipperary have gone through an extensive cost-cutting programme and their team expenses fell considerably. Overall expenditure fell by 13pc but that still wasn't sufficient to stem the outward flow. Another 7.5pc cut in expenditure has been pencilled in for 2012 but local gate receipts took the biggest hit last year.



Kildare's problems have also been well flagged but significant steps have been taken to address them. They are currently seeking up to 1,000 supporters to contribute €1,000 each to help alleviate the debt. Still, over the last four years, their deficit, according to their auditors, has rolled up to €570,000.



Some of the deficits are small - the likes of Carlow were just €5,787 off breaking even and if depreciation costs were excluded, it would probably take them back into profit.



Sligo estimate that more than half of their €78,000 deficit was down to the county team's early exit from the championship, while Fermanagh suffered badly as Club Eirne's help dried up, with a split in the dressing-room affecting their season.



Wexford's deficit doesn't seem too problematic but it masks the greater losses that have been accrued in some development deals that went badly and were aired at a recent meeting by new chairman Diarmuid Devereaux.



Not surprisingly, Cork head the list of counties who have turned massive profit on their operations in 2011.



When their members' draw and ground revenue account is taken on board they come in with a surplus of almost €500,000.



Tyrone County Board have also turned an impressive profit. They operated at a £45,284 profit but with a contribution from Club Tyrone of £354,006 - specifically ringfenced for their development at Garvaghy - the actual surplus is £399,290 which, when converted is is excess of €470,000.



Cavan have shown prudence in their affairs with cost-cutting across the board helping to turn out a €152,000 profit.



Not every county audits the same way, so income and expenditure figures can differ because of contra items and ticket sales.



Kilkenny, Kerry and Galway all recorded tidy profits, while Mayo also came in almost €109,000 in surplus.



But that figure doesn't conceal the broader challenges they face, with some €11.6m debts on McHale Park hanging over them.



Some counties in Leinster have managed to turn their financial fortunes around impressively and are bucking the wider trend.



Five years ago, Louth had reported losses for 2007 of €119,000 but for 2011 their profit was €91,719.



Laois have also turned their situation around in just 12 months by over €300,000, as a €216,417 deficit in 2010 was replaced by a €97,919 surplus.



Offaly and Wicklow managed to reverse their fortunes too, with both back in profit.



Dublin feature just outside the top 10 in surplus, with €92,594 of income over expenditure after a year that saw them spend some €1.7m on their teams.



The overall picture, however, is one of concern for counties, and on Monday Delaney was not slow about attributing blame - in some cases to excess spending on team administration.



He also called for greater control to be exerted by boards and for the alarm bells to be sounded much earlier than they are now.

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