Re-vamp the All-Ireland Championships and National League Competitions

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Ireland is in a recession and the GAA has a big opportunity to help Ireland and the GAA by unlocking the full potential of the All-Ireland Championships and National League Competitions.

The financial sector is largely insolvent and requiring a massive bailout (regardless of their bluster and creative accounting).

Lack of finance is a major problem for Irish business – especially the small and medium-sized business sector.

Unemployment costs + low tax take equates to a problem for Government finances.

As a result, the public sector is under severe pressure to cut its costs, which in turn = unemployment or lower wages + a lower tax take

However …

  • Irish exports are still doing extremely well, inward investment is still happening, despite the EU recession and Irish agriculture is enjoying record highs in terms of output, prices and exports. In order to reduce unemployment
  • We are looking towards tourism to create jobs
  • We are looking towards self-reliance, import substitution and a vibrant SME sector to create jobs

The GAA can be a major force in achieving these national goals,while simultaneously achieving its own goals.

The Championship comes alive at the Quarter-Final stages but the qualifiers are still a bit low key.  Attendances are poor until the quarter-finals because the level of expectation is so low in so many counties.  The qualifiers have undermined the value of the provincial championships for the stronger counties and the weaker counties are still not breaking through.

There is an old adage that says “you cannot get better unless you play against someone better than yourself.”

The National League is still relatively unattractive – apart from winning it, there is no major incentive to do well.  The top counties still see National League as a place to experiment and, for many counties, interest wanes after the opening 2 games.  This is borne out by the fact that National League winners don’t always win the Championship.  Apart from pride, there seems to be no problem being in Divison 2 of the National League and the Provincial Championships are no longer seen as vital because of the back-door system.

  • There now two perpetually weak provinces for hurling, since Galway went into the Leinster Championship for hurling.
  • Leinster and Ulster SFC most difficult to win (the others = 2 games).

An open draw for the All-Ireland Championships has many advantages – sporting, economic and commercial.

However, a fully open draw would not work if two ‘big’ counties got drawn together early in the Championship.The Dublin-Meath draws early in the Leinster SFCs of the 1990s only paid off financially because of the number of drawn games.  The conspiracy theorists at the time reckoned the refs HAD to a part of it !       🙂

This is why a ‘seeded’ draw is required, i.e. we don’t want the stronger counties going out “too early” in the competition – for example, like Tipperary did in last year’s otherwise excellent SH championship.  Tipperary have a great following.  Their supporters love the game, enjoy their roadtrips and would follow their team to four corners of the island and beyond.

The GAA has a history of innovation and experimentation

  • reduction of teams from 21 players, to 19, then 17 and finally 15-a-side
  • the GAA has experimented with and altered the rules of each code to allow for free-flowing play and fair competition
  • the GAA has brought Gaelic Games to America, Great Britain and everywhere the Irish diaspora has settled
  • the GAA has taken great care to be non-political, non-sectarian and non-racist
  • in short, the GAA has never been afraid of short term unpopularity in order to develop their sporting codes

The GAA is also of huge historical significance and is of worldwide importance to the Irish Diaspora

  • It holds national sporting pre-eminence in terms of Irish Culture, community pride, participation and support.
  • This is due to the fact that the GAA has always been innovative.
  • This is its strength.

Change is good…

  • Few counties competed for the first decades,
  • These early championships were for club champions only,
  • This later evolved into club selections and, eventually, full county-wide selection.

This happened because some counties dominated, e.g. Cavan SF for the first 50 years in Ulster.

We now need a new format to make the All-Ireland Championships more vibrant, more attractive and more challenging

What can be done to make this happen?

  • The Provincial Championships are obsolete
  • All-Ireland Winners no longer have to be Provincial Champions
  • Qualifying via the “back door” system offers a “second chance”
  • The “back door” also gives teams more match practice
  • Seemingly an advantage when playing provincial winners later on
  • Weaker counties still only play 1 or 2 games (a major disincentive for players and fans)

An Open Draw is an inevitability

  • Helps develop and improve the so-called ‘weaker counties’
  • Helps local economic development within each and every county
  • Helps attract local sponsorship + local advertising for all counties
  • 6 big “home” weekends = major financial bonus for every county
  • Massive TV and Radio advertising potential
  • Massive branding and merchandising potential for the GAA
  • Revenue to help development of County stadia + facilities
  • Closer links to third level sports science facilities

The current situation

  • Few NL Div 4 counties in any code will ever play a top team from another province
  • Most are knocked out in the 1st Round of their Provincial Championship
  • How can they improve without exposure to the Top Teams from other provinces ?
  • How can they motivate players without offering them ‘the dream’ of playing in a big stadium against a top team ?
  • How can they attract new players and build new or stronger clubs, e.g. Kilkenny footballers

The European Champions League is a good example.  All teams have a chance of making it through and even the minnows of Europe get drawn against the big clubs.  Some even make it through to the knockout stages, e.g. Apoel Nicosia (Cyprus).  Initial seeding is very important, as is seeding at the ‘Last 16’ knock-out stage.

I know.  I know.  Foreign sports are our competitors.  This late 19th C nationalist view is a bit outdated at this stage.  We are the dominant sport on this island.  We are their peers, not their underlings.  We can learn from them, as opposed to do nothing and eventually get over-run by them.

Revenue streams from television and other digital media sources can be maximised.  In a champions league format, each county would get 6 Championship weekends (3 football + 3 hurling).  This equates to much more local and national advertising, revenue for hotels, B&B, food and beverage vendors than is available at present.

  • Local Clubs can also contribute and benefit.
  • Local Business can also contribute and benefit.
  • The GAA will, in turn, also benefit.


National Leagues = Seeding Competition

  • Top 8 teams= 1st seeds
  • Second 8 teams = 2nd seeds
  • Third 8 teams= 3rd seeds
  • Last 8 teams = 4th seeds

All-Ireland Championships = Open ‘seeded’ Draw

  • 8 groups of 4 teams
  • 3 home games + 3 away games for all teams at the top level
  • Top Teams = home advantage in “Last 16” knock-out stage
  • Runners-up = away team in “Last 16” knock-out stage

All-Ireland “B” Championships

  • 3rd placed teams = home advantage in “Last 16” knock-out stage
  • Last-placed teams = away teams in “Last 16” knock-out stage
  • This piece of the puzzle is already in place.

Measureable Goals and Objectives

  • Increase average match attendances in the weaker counties by 50%
  • Increase the annual gate receipts of each county by a minimum of 200%
  • Link to “diaspora” tourism festivities each year

County GAA Benefits

  • Every county team has minimum of 14 “Championship” games
  • 7 hurling championship games+
  • 7 football championship games
  • Every county has minimum of 6 Championship “home” weekends
  • 3 hurling weekends +
  • 3 football weekends
  • Full weekend = Senior, Intermediate, Junior and Minor championship games

Local Economy Benefits

  • Accommodation at local hotels, guest houses, B&Bs, etc.
  • Food & Drink at local pubs, restaurants, etc.
  • Increased advertising revenue at County Grounds
  • Sponsorship and merchandising at each County Ground
  • Increased county tourism due to a pre-planned schedule of 6 home weekends at the group stage
  • Increased opportunities for inbound ‘diaspora’ tourism and ‘linked’ cultural, social and historical events

Additional Benefits

  • Exhibitions, fairs, carnivals and/or charity events
  • for those not attending the games (a diverse family weekend)

Typical Weekend Schedule

  • 16 counties play at home each weekend
  • Alternating hurling and football weekends
  • 3 home games for Hurling
  • 3 home games for Football
  • 8 “live” senior games every Saturday (12 weeks)
  • RTE1, RTE2, TV3, TG4 (2 games each)
  • Setanta and other digital carriers can choose which games to re-broadcast or co-broadcast
  • New GAA media unit (live games) and online streaming service
  • Sell “live games” rights to TV broadcasters, satellite and online
  • Sell “re-runs” of games to the above
  • 8 “live” senior games every Sunday (12 weeks)
  • Stagger throw ins for “live” TV purposes (maximise advertising revenues)
  • Minor play before Senior
  • Junior play before Intermediate
  • Option to play Camogie + Ladies Football on Friday evenings

Other Ideas (for discussion)

1 week before each game …

  • All “unsold” tickets shared between local clubs & schools
  • 50% could be given to under age players (free prizes)
  • The other 50% could “bundled” for adults + accompanying children
  • Alternatively, the clubs “auction” their allocation of “free” tickets on the Friday night before the games (local fans / no time for touting)
  • 6 Penalty + Free-taking + Skills competitions
  • €10 to enter (Next week’s match tickets as prizes, clubs keep cash)
  • Competitions held during the week (limited numbers)
  • 6 Crafts Fairs / Art Exhibitions
  • Link up with local crafts people, artists and associations
  • e.g. Fás/Obair, ICA, Macra, Charities and local businesses (sponsors)
  • 6 Food/Farmers’ Markets and Service Expo’s
  • Link up with local producers and trades people
  • Link up with local “alternative” venues
  • Potential for street markets / fairs
  • NO “dodgy dealers” selling contraband (legitimate, VAT-registered, local small businesses only)


Digital television and radio revenues


  • The National League (seedings for All-Ireland Series)
  • The National League Semi-Finals & Finals
  • Championship Draw
  • 2 x Special RTE Features (Hurling & Football)
  • Past GAA Personalities to conduct “the Draw”
  • 8 groups of 4 teams

The Championship itself

  • 16 senior games per weekend
  • 8 on Saturday + 8 on Sunday
  • Advertising revenue for GAA, the Media and Local Businesses
  • Employment opportunities for TV & Radio crews
  • Trainee, work experience and internship opportunities for third level graduates
  • PR / Social Media opportunities for the GAA (nationally and internationally)
  • 6 Hurling + 6 Football championship weekends
  • 12 weeks of entertainment (qualifying groups)
  • A & B Championships (Last 16, QF, SF and Finals)
  • Shadow these with Intermediate, Junior and Minor competitions

GAA Franchise Opportunities

  • Match Day Programmes
  • Each county venue has a County Museum + County Shop
  • Past team photo’s
  • Past match day programmes (unsold “surplus” stock)
  • Jerseys, Shorts, Socks, Full Kits, Bags, Pennants, Caps, etc.
  • Advance Ticket sales for “next” home game

Each county has an eCommerce website

  • Past team photo’s
  • Past match day programmes (unsold “surplus” stocks)
  • Jerseys, Shorts, Socks, Full Kits, Bags, Pennants, Caps, etc.
  • County Supporter Clubs
  • Tickets
  • Travel (private hire)
  • DVDs, County Annuals, Books, Calendars
  • County Crests on gifts
  • pens, t-shirts, computer accessories mats, mobile phone accessories, car accessories, etc.

County Stadia Redevelopment Opportunities

  • Phased development towards “All-Seat” Stadiums
  • Each Stadium = Centre of Excellence
  • Link to local third level colleges since this is where much of the rising inter-county stars develop
  • HQ for county squads (Senior down to U16 development squads)
  • Medical, Physiotherapy, Sports Science facilities (initially, visiting experts if none available locally)
  • Gym, Weights, Indoor + Outdoor facilities

Each Stadium = Commercial Centre

  • Shopping Centre (retail space)
  • Commercial (office space)
  • Bus & Car Park (transport hub)
  • Ideal Location
  • Green field or brown field site
  • Away from town centre
  • Near Motorway / Bypass / Outer Ring Road


  • Open Draw for All-Ireland Championships
  • Seeding based on National League places
  • Option to scrap Provincial Championships
  • Option to retain them as “warm up” competitions
  • Top 2 in each group qualify for “A” c’ship
  • Bottom 2 in each group qualify for “B” c’ship
  • Re-development plans for smaller stadiums
  • County GAA Shop at all county stadiums
  • Merchandising opportunity
  • County GAA Museum at each stadium
  • Also sell old team photo’s + memorabilia
  • Schools and group tours midweek
  • Closer links with local economy
  • Closer links with local tourism



6 thoughts on “Re-vamp the All-Ireland Championships and National League Competitions

    […] For a more in-depth view of the many sporting, social and economic benefits, see my blog post at… […]

    GAA Corner responded:
    May 4, 2014 at 11:44 pm

    It’s just a standard template and is available (free of charge) from the WordPress website. I just added a collage of my own content, which was very simply done via Microsoft Paint (a standard constituent of MS.Office).

    GAA Corner responded:
    May 4, 2014 at 11:45 pm

    Thank you for your kind words.
    I’m glad I could be of help to you and your group.

    […] recently wrote blog articles on re-vamping the All-Ireland C’ships and another on the economic benefits of doing so for each county.  Developing these points […]

    […] Re-vamp the All-Ireland Championships […]

    […] Re-vamp the All-Ireland Championships and National League Competitions […]

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