Like most sports, the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) has been in turmoil since the outbreak of Covid-19. All games came to an abrupt halt on March 12 as the association decided that all GAA action would be suspended in light of recommendations from the Irish government.
An optimistic resumption date of March 29 was initially penned into the diaries of GAA fans, but as the pandemic worsened throughout Europe, the GAA scrambled back to the drawing board.
An announcement from the GAA on May 6 brought the reality of Covid-19 into sharp-focus. Games will not resume until October at the very earliest, but many remarked that the organisation could not condone the resumption of sport if it put any of their members at risk.
Crowd sizes at games is an obvious issue, but seeing as Gaelic Football and Hurling are full-contact sports, the risk to players and subsequently their families and communities cannot be ignored either.
It seems as though saying action will resume in October is just kicking the can down the road. In reality, no vaccine will probably mean no GAA.
The GAA must be strong on this point and not shy away from it. They must be adamant that the safety of their amateur players and the wider GAA community is paramount- everything else comes after.
Postponing games until later this year at the earliest is a heavy blow for the GAA, with the majority of their revenue coming from gate receipts in four major competitions: the National Football and Hurling Leagues, but particularly the All-Ireland Football and Hurling Championships.
Before games were suspended, 80 and 88 fixtures had been played in the National Football and Hurling Leagues respectively, neither of which had reached their culmination. Both Championships were yet to commence.
According to the GAA’s 2019 financial report, the gate receipts for that year’s 47 All-Ireland Championship games came to €36.1M, accounting for 48% of the year’s total revenue.
Almost foreboding, the report states: “An entity with nearly 50% of its revenue being generated from a single income source such as ticket revenues will need to be very attentive and adaptive.”
Little did they know that these testing times were only months away.
While the greatest expenditure for the GAA is the staging of games, which is no longer on the agenda, the problem arises further down the line, where the GAA’s annual revenue would ultimately end up.
Last year, 84% of the revenue generated by the GAA was redistributed back to clubs, counties and provinces, in Ireland and overseas. As many clubs, particularly in rural areas, struggle to keep the light on, funding disruptions could be devastating.
The GAA also directly employs, or funds, 350 coaches around the country and on average employs 165 people each month in management, games promotion, welfare and development and administration roles.
Games cannot go ahead, but the bills still have to be paid. This will be a real test of the GAA and how attentive and adaptive they truly are.