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GAA will now reap in massive cash bonanza

By John Campbell

The GAA is set to reap a massive financial bonanza now that the biggest sponsorship deal in the history of Irish sport is about to be brought to a close.

When the Association initially intimated that six sponsors in all were to be sought to underwrite the All Ireland Football and Hurling Championships, it was thought that this would prove much too ambitious.

In the event, there is now confirmation that the football championship has been oversubscribed and that the hurling championship has engendered "huge interest," according to a Croke Park source.

The upshot of all this is that the GAA is now set to reap in some €75m over the next three years, a figure which will also incorporate hugely increased revenue from the sale of television rights.

It is envisaged that the football and hurling championships will earn the GAA some €10m per year from direct sponsorship while TV deals yet to be signed will see Setanta and TV3 come on board to join RTE in bringing gaelic games into homes not just in Ireland but in various countries across the globe.

While details of what is a complex overall financial package have not been released as yet, it is widely expected that the All Ireland football and hurling championships will now yield the kind of cash that will dwarf that which has been paid by both the Bank of Ireland and Guinness over recent years.

Both companies have become synonymous with the championships but the corporate net has now been successfully cast wider.

It's hardly surprising, of course, that the prospect of having their names attached to the most high-profile sports competitions in this country have struck a distinct chord with big players from within the world of business and commerce.

"There has been a very enthusiastic response from the corporate sector and this shows just how highly regarded the All Ireland championships are at this point in time," said Croke Park marketing manager Dermot Power.

It is Power who has provided the dynamic in negotiations which will see the GAA coffers boosted to an unprecedented level over the next three years.

The Association may be under fire to some extent from within because of the ongoing furore in relation to the payment of player grants but the financial future overall certainly looks more than rosy.

Details of the television deals that will see RTE, TV3 and Setanta provide live coverage of matches are still being worked out and here again the GAA will garner massive income.

Croke Park officials have made it known in private for some time, indeed, that they were keen to see the monopoly enjoyed by RTE ended and now they are having their wish granted.

The spectre of pay-per-view still looms on the horizon, of course, although it is doubtful if the GAA would favour going down this road.

As things stand, the GAA is likely to bank something in the region of €25m a year over the next three years from sponsorship and TV alone.

It's the kind of revenue that will not only help to hasten the repayment of debts associated with the redevelopment of Croke Park but will also almost certainly offer much greater scope for further games propogation initiatives.

It must not be forgotten, too, that big crowds are still very much the order of the day at championship matches and with ticket prices perhaps getting a hike, gate revenue is also set to increase.

There has been some concern expressed recently that the All Ireland football qualifiers may have lost some of their gloss but the fact that this series will be played on a more streamlined basis this year should ensure greater interest.

The GAA is certainly poised to enjoy what is certain to be the most lucrative period in its history - from a financial perspective at least.

Belfast Telegraph


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