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‘We are at crisis-point,’ admits Cork GAA secretary/CEO Kevin O’Donovan

December 4th, 2019 11:50 AM

By Denis Hurley

Kevin O Donovan Cork County Board Vice Chairman who will replace Frank Murphy as County Board Secretary and become CEO pic George Hatchell

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CORK GAA’s financial position has been described as ‘crisis-point’ by county secretary/CEO Kevin O’Donovan, but he is keen to ensure that the situation improves in 2020.

Kilmeen native O’Donovan, county chairperson Tracey Kennedy and treasurer Diarmuid Gowen met the media on Friday evening to discuss the annual report, which will be presented to convention on Sunday, December 8th.

The headline figure is the deficit for the year of €559,058, taking in a €200,000 loss on gate receipts, a drop in sponsorship income of €70,000 and a dip of €49,000 on the Cork GAA Clubs’ Draw. Allied to that was an increase of €90,000 in administration expenses.

O’Donovan accepted that it had been a tough year.

‘We are at crisis-point,’ he said.

‘Crisis is a dangerous word, but we can’t have another year like this. Yes, our reserves are secure but it’s not sustainable to continue with losses indefinitely.

‘The drop in attendances was huge this year. You look back and see if there was a notable difference in how the games were run and I didn’t see that. Yes, shutting down for the summer is killing us because of our nature as a dual county.

‘Crashing games into August and September weekends, with only supporters of those teams present – you can forget about games as a neutral anymore, because they’re all on at the same time – that’s killing us.

‘We were unfortunate that there weren’t replays in county finals or semi-finals but that’s not something we should be budgeting for, that should be a bonus.

‘Divisions have got the flak for the drop in attendances at county finals, that’s a bit unfair. If they’re in a competition, they’re entitled to progress as far as they want to and of course people’s loyalty is to their clubs.

‘We have modified the championships for 2020 in that only one divisional or college team will advance. I don’t think we want a division to win ten in a row in Cork, I don’t think it’s good for the club game in Cork.

‘At the same time, they were only one or two games, generally speaking gates are suffering. We have to start playing games in the summertime.

‘Next year, anywhere we can find space for a game without county players, in round two of a three-game series, we’re playing that game in July. We know guys have J1s and so on, we will give a fixture programme in December so they can plan accordingly.

‘But it is a summer game, it is a community game, it was not a game invited for floodlights in the freezing cold, where children can’t go. It is a summer game – it’s grand to go to the county final in October but not grand to be going to a second-round game in mid-September, when we’re all back to school.’

While O’Donovan has no concerns regarding solvency, he doesn’t want the trend to continue. Against that is the fact that he expects expenditure to increase in 2020.

‘The contingency is that our reserves are still secure,’ he said.

‘Could we take it? Yes, but how far down to the bottom of your reserves do you want to go? Will this board be solvent in 12 months’ time? Yes, but there’s another issue here.

‘We’ve appointed a high-performance manager [Aidan O’Connell]. It’s not much good appointing him if we’re not going to equip him to serve our county teams and everyone is telling me that we’ve got to get back to Croke Park.

‘Are costs coming down in some of those areas or are they going up? I think we’ve more than €500,000 to find in the next 12 months, I think we’ve a higher figure to find.

‘It’s grand to come in and have a rant about player expenses but we’re the same people sitting in Croke Park asking why they aren’t fitter or faster.

‘Do we have the reserves to take another bad year? Yes, but we don’t want it to go to zero. ‘There’s a massive review coming in January, every figure is going to be attacked. We don’t think that there is €500,000 worth of trimmings to be made but there are lesser amounts and we’re chasing every one of those.

‘There’s a commercial revenue hole in our accounts, there’s an attendance hole in our accounts, but there’s another one too, where we can include our tendering and processes to ensure every penny is saved.’

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