Belfast Telegraph

Declan Bogue: Why GAA finances can no longer be left in hands of amateur volunteers

Worth the wait: Kilcoo’s joint captains Conor Laverty and Aidan Branagan lift the Seamus McFerran Cup
Worth the wait: Kilcoo’s joint captains Conor Laverty and Aidan Branagan lift the Seamus McFerran Cup
Declan Bogue

By Declan Bogue

With the County Convention in full swing, we get to see the full depth of the prejudices nursed by GAA officialdom.

Already there's been some corkers. When you are in a bubble, it's hard to gain a bird's-eye view of things.

One county official condemned the lack of Gaelic games coverage on television. This didn't take into account the huge advances by the likes of BBC and RTÉ this winter which, to this eye, has been admirable and commendable.

RTÉ are now showing live club games, something they had never considered in the past, with Dublin quarter-finals and Ulster games now there for the world to see.

There's nothing new in that, of course.

TG4 have been ploughing that furrow for years, but when other broadcasters start looking around for games to cover and competition enters the equation, it gives a much broader scope for the viewer.

Then there is BBC NI, long used as a scapegoat, but who broadcast the Clontibret v Crossmaglen Ulster Club quarter-final live on their website on a Saturday night and, if fixtures had have been scheduled differently, were keen on another couple of games.

Then we had their one-off programme charting the fortunes of Kilcoo and Naomh Conaill in the Ulster Club final a few short days after the decider.

Again, you would have to say this was a welcome addition.

Away from that, you have a number of other areas that throw up surprises and top of the list are the figures produced in treasurers' reports.

What's emerging here are the eye-watering amounts required to fund senior inter-county action and the sheer scale of debt that some counties operate with.

The Cork county board told delegates they had a €560,000 operating loss, which led their audit and risk sub-committee to threaten to resign en masse. The full extent of the debt is over €2.4m, but this is including the capital loan.

The sub-committee have commented on the issue: "Failure to outline the combined position would, in the view of the (sub-) Committee, present a very significant risk to the reputation of the Cork county board with its key stakeholders and the wider GAA community, as has been demonstrated recently in other organisations."

The games may be amateur, but it's clear that the administration needs to become professional. There's simply too much at stake these days.

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