I read with interest today, an article in the Irish Independent by Donnchadh Boyle, entitled “GAA sponsorship deals highlight rich-man, poor-man divide” and he started by saying that “Elite counties’ financial muscle creating uneven playing field that gives ‘have-nots’ little chance of upsetting (the established) order.”
Sorry, Donnacha, I completely disagree with your assessment.
The sponsorship divide is a merely a symptom of the problem – the real problem is value for money from the sponsors’ perspective.
- Who is going to sponsor a county for €1m that goes out in the first round of their provincial c’ship and in the first round of the qualifiers?
- Who would sponsor Dublin if they had to play in front of 10,000 spectators in an out-dated rural setting?
- Dublin, Cork, Kerry and Tyrone get great sponsorship deals because they are successful
- Success = getting to a quarter-final every year, or a semi-final most years
The GAA recognize this.
- That is why Dublin play championship matches at Croke Park
- Ask any player if he’s prefer playing in front of 80,000 people or 10,000 and there is only one answer
- That is also why Cork and Kerry are kept apart in the opening rounds of the Munster C’ship
The GAA, as an organisation, has not come as far as it has without due regard to finances. They have, as far as possible, re-invested their profits wisely and the proliferation of first class facilities at club level in every county is now the envy of all other Irish sports.
- The facilities are unrecognizable from when I played in Dublin in the 1970’s and 80’s
- The coaching standards are also unrecognizable when I played
- The participation levels are also phenomenal
Far from being resentful, I am filled with pride at how much the GAA scene has improved.
In my opinion, the ‘big counties’ are good value for their sponsorship money because they all get to the quarter-finals regularly.
- Their sponsors expect a quarter-final as a minimum and these counties deliver.
- It is a bonus if they can win a provincial c’ship but if they don’t there’s always the (back-door) qualifier route
The so-called ‘weaker counties’ get knocked out in the first round of their provincial c’ship and get one more game in the qualifiers.
Who is going to sponsor a county that plays TWO championship games in front of less than 10,000 spectators?
The sponsorship divide at GAA county level can only be fixed via an open draw.
An open, seeded draw with 8 groups of 4 teams is the only way forward.
This means that all 8 of the weakest counties get to play at least one of the Top 8 counties – home and away !
- Their players get to play at a big stadium (Croker, Semple, or Pairc Ui Chaoimh)
- Their county town gets to host one of the Top 8 counties too
- Each county is guaranteed 6 games in the group stage + one at the knock-out stage in both hurling and football
- This is 250% more games than many counties get at present
- Their potential sponsors would also get 250% more exposure (7 games in each code)
- Every county gets to play in the ‘Last 16’ (top 2 in each group play in the A C’ship and bottom 2 play in the B C’ship)
Instead of just keeping Cork and Kerry apart, we’d be keeping the Top 8 apart for the first 6 games.
- This would negate the arguments re which province is hardest to get out of
- This would negate the argument re lack of match practice for the provincial winners
- This would negate the argument that Dublin have an unfair advantage at Croke Park
- This would ensure a level playing field for all
The only way teams can get better is by playing teams that are better than they are.
Playing two games a year is not the answer.
And playing two games a year is not going to find them sponsors either.
Ask anyone in Leitrim would they like to play Dublin at Croke Park or at home … and the result would probably be split 80/20 in favour of Croke Park (a great day out for both players and spectators). Have Leitrim ever played Dublin, Kerry or Tyrone in football ? Or Kilkenny, Cork or Tipperary in hurling ?
How many times have Leitrim played at Croke Park, Semple Stadium or Pairc Ui Chaoimh ???
An open draw gives them a 1 in 8 chance of playing at Croke Park – the current system gives them almost zero chance of doing so.
An open draw also makes stadium improvements more likely in the so-called ‘weaker counties’ home venues.
Ask them if they’s prefer home and away fixtures … and I guarantee 100% in favour.
Maybe there’s room for another 8 teams, i.e. 8 groups of 5 counties.
London, Warwickshire, Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow … and three others ?
- Dublin v London at Wembley or the London Olympics Stadium ???
- Kerry v Manchester at Old Trafford or City of Manchester Stadium ???
- Mayo v Liverpool at Anfield or Goodison Park ???
- Donegal or Tyrone v Glasgow at Celtic Park ??? (or Ibrox)
FYI – GAA has already been played Wembley – Kerry v Down in 1961 (Pathé Newsreel)
But that’s an debate for another post.