CONNACHT GAA SECRETARY JOHN Prenty says the pandemic forced county boards into cost-saving measures which should be retained to curb the rising costs of preparing inter-county teams.
In the provincial council’s annual report, Prenty noted how a “high quality” All-Ireland championship took place in 2020 despite team costs being a fraction of the previous year.
Costs of team preparations rose steadily over the previous decade, but the overall total spent on county sides dropped by 37% last year, from €29.93m to €18.71m. Prenty believes the GAA have “stumbled onto a formula for the future”.
To achieve this, he says teams should be confined to a maximum of three training sessions per week and two sessions on the week of a game.
“GPA cooperation is required to police this,” he wrote.
Among the other measures he feels should be retained are the split season model, limiting match day panels to 26, Croke Park covering team expenses for a maximum of 32 players on each panel and backroom teams limited to 12 members.
In addition, Prenty said an official off-season should be “enshrined” in the fixtures calendar.
“The plans and expectations we had at last year’s Convention as we entered a new decade were quickly thrown into disarray within 2 months with the arrival of the pandemic,” he wrote.
“Suddenly we had no games, no attendances, lockdowns and very little financial opportunities. For a number of years I have decried the excessive costs of the inter-county game in particular with year-on-year increases in expenditure.
“The way that the year panned out meant that the previous demands of inter-county team managers and players to train more, have more professional staff involved and consequently spend more, could not be accommodated as 2020 had to be different and we managed to have a very exciting, high quality inter-county championship with county team costs at a fraction of the year before.
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“Hopefully the runaway train of previous years can be slowed down to keep within the speed limits.
“From a Provincial Council point of view the greatest threat we face in the new decade, because of Covid19, will be the challenges that the lack of attendances and consequent lack of finance that the pandemic has imposed,” he added.
Prenty warned that Connacht GAA’s present financial position, brought about by the lack of crowds at provincial games, is their biggest threat going forward.
“2020 has been a most challenging year financially for the council with zero gate receipts from the Connacht Senior Football Championship and our Provincial Club Championships (which were cancelled).
“Dire weather conditions impacted on attendances for the FBD Insurance League and the EirGrid Connacht U-20 Championship, after which there were no attendances allowed at our games with our only game income coming from the streaming of our u-17 championship.
“2021 will probably be more challenging, than 2020,” he continued.
“At the minute there is little or no prospect of attendances at our championship games and it is important that the council is allowed to avail of any streaming opportunities which are available for nonlive televised games.
“Our financial situation will place a significant pressure on the council and it will have a huge impact on our operational capability long into the future. There will be a need for the incoming council to examine our financial situation, going forward, at an early date.”