Unified Approach Required To Tackle ‘Precarious’ Debt

By Brian McDonnell

COUNTY Board chairman Seán Nugent has called on GAA supporters to unite behind the executive in an effort to address significant debts incurred. At an especially-convened County Board meeting last week Seán Nugent presented plans to address the financial crisis.

Seán Nugent described the situation as a “major challenge” while also indicating that “we are all in this boat together and we will have to take on this challenge”.

“Action is required and action is required urgently, but we at the top table intend to take on this challenge in the strongest possible terms,” Seán Nugent said.

“We’re in a difficult financial position and it will take us all fighting and pulling together to do it,” the County Board chairman added.

At the meeting the financial position of the County Board was outlined by representatives of auditors Spain, Fewer Quinlan and Company - in 2012 the Tipperary County Board incurred a loss of E244,390 (in 2011 the loss incurred was E219,103).

Since the County Board’s net current assets amounted to just E615 (current assets of E912,818 less current liabilities of E912,203) auditor Ronan Spain was moved to describe the financial position as “fairly precarious” while Mr Spain also said that “there is a need to try to turn around the financial situation following three years of fairly significant losses”.

Reflecting on the issue County Board treasurer Eamon Buckley explained that savings in the region of E200,000 needed to be made in terms of expenditure and that a further E200,000 was required in terms of additional funds.

“It’s not impossible,” Eamon Buckley said.

“We must face the facts and do the work,” the County Board treasurer added.

During the course of an address on the issue Seán Nugent outlined how the executive intended to control expenditure, reduce costs and raise additional funds to address this significant issue.

The chairman was keen to highlight the fact that by mid-February the County Board will have initiated an accounting system which will help to determine an accurate picture of the financial situation on a quarterly basis.

Seán Nugent also insisted that a “strict control of board expenditure” was required.

Cost Saving

Chairman Seán Nugent highlighted team administration costs as a major issue for the County Board. Mr Nugent emphasised the point that since Tipperary had been “very competitive” at many levels in both hurling and Gaelic football the administration costs associated with maintaining teams for prolonged campaigns were significant.

“This is good news and this is encouraging news, but the difficulty with it is that it comes at a high price,” chairman Seán Nugent said.

Issues with team administration costs will be addressed as follows: by restricting senior inter-county panels to thirty (others to twenty-six), by reducing the travel rate to twenty cents per kilometre for all panels other than senior, by introducing carpooling and to only consider bus travel when cost effective and by restricting the number of players taken to challenge games to twenty.

Nugent indicated that the expenditure associated with each panel of players would be the responsibility of the respective team liaison officer. Mr Nugent explained that gear allocation would be as per annual sponsorship and embargoed until March when inter-county panels are finalised.

Seán Nugent also insisted that there would be “no jersey swapping” at any grade. Mr Nugent explained that players would be permitted to keep their jersey once their involvement in a given championship had come to a conclusion, but that the County Board needed to minimise the cost of jerseys during the playing season.

Concerns were raised by several delegates with regard to cost cutting measures which could potentially impact on the players’ performance.

Football Board chairman Joe Hannigan outlined that “it must be remembered the tremendous amount of work those guys are putting in”.

Mr Hannigan insisted that “someone needed to talk to the players” and that it was “important to get the message across to the players”.

County Board PRO Ger Ryan was careful to point out during this discussion that such measures would not impact negatively on the players.

“It is important to point out that these measures are not going to affect any team or affect the players’ chances of winning their respective championship,” Ger Ryan explained.

“This is about good controls. No player is going to miss out on anything that they are entitled to,” Mr Ryan added.

“The cost-cutting measures will be communicated to the players in a proper and appropriate way,” County Board chairman Seán Nugent said.

“I have no doubt that the players will respond appropriately,” Nugent added before insisting that he wanted to introduce “an element of control” and that “the implementing of it all is where all the work is”.

“We have to do it,” Seán Nugent insisted.

“We have no choice and we will do it. And, we will be looking for your full support to do so,” Seán Nugent added.

Chairman Seán Nugent also indicated that the executive were prepared to examine “where suitable and appropriate” the possibility of sharing the cost of training the senior inter-county team with individual clubs. Mr Nugent revealed that as part of the Gathering 2013 that the county team had been invited to train in Lorrha as part of the Lorrha Heritage Festival in June. Mr Nugent explained that such an invitation would be examined.

Seán Nugent also indicated that there would be strict controls on the maintenance costs associated with Dr Morris Park and that the County Board intended to make better use of the facilities by renting out Dr Morris Park (E150 with lights & E80 without).

Reacting to the measures discussed John Costigan (JK Bracken’s) said that “there are no real cutbacks”.

“It is just a tidying up of the situation,” Mr Costigan added.

“It is up to us as County Board delegates to give you our full support.”

Fundraising Initiatives

The County Board intend to pursue several fund-raising initiatives which include hosting a ‘Big Bingo’ in the Dome, a fashion show at the same venue, a white collar boxing event, a ‘monster auction’ and a scór concert in the Premier Hall.

The County Board chairman Seán Nugent also revealed that the executive would be calling on the clubs of the county to support an all-county quiz. The idea here is that individual clubs would host a table quiz and forward the income from the quiz to the County Board with the winners of individual quizzes progressing to a final hosted in the Dome.

“We’re not asking clubs for money,” Nugent explained.

“A lot of clubs would be proud and honoured to do it,” the chairman added.

The chairman also revealed that the executive officers were examining the possibility of attracting foreign investment by appealing to the Tipperary diaspora for support.

Although Seán Nugent did not “want to go into it in detail” there appear to be tentative plans to host an event in New York on April 6th with senior hurling manager Eamon O’Shea performing a role as key note speaker at a special fundraising event.

“We are seeking the support of Tipperary people not just at home, but also abroad,” Seán Nugent explained.

The County Board also hope to revamp the Tipperary GAA website once a sponsor has been secured and to build the website into a significant source of revenue.

Chairman Seán Nugent also revealed that hosting a concert or an event of a similar scale was not in the immediate fundraising plans.

“No major promoter has shown any interest in it,” Seán Nugent said.

As a fundraising initiative County Board secretary Timmy Floyd highlighted the Premier Gold Club Plus season ticket package which he described as “sensational value” and encouraged delegates to promote within their respective clubs.

The Premier Gold Club Plus season ticket package comes at a cost of E200 and involves a combination of an inter-county season ticket and a club season ticket. That combination would give patrons access to all of Tipperary’s National Hurling League games and their opening game in the Munster senior hurling championship. The inter-county season ticket also presents patrons with an option to purchase preferential tickets for all of Tipperary’s championship games while the club season ticket gives patrons access to all adult club games (at both divisional and county level) in 2013.

County Board chairman Seán Nugent also revealed that the executive hoped to attract a sponsor for the club championships and to professionally market the club championships in order to address the issue of flagging attendances.

Football Board chairman Joe Hannigan detailed a fundraising initiative which he is personally spearheading called the ‘Cheltenham Gold Cup Day Challenge’ which is similar to Fantasy Cheltenham (run by Kilkenny club Erin’s Own).

The Cheltenham Gold Cup Day Challenge will involve members of the public paying E10 to enter and then selecting horses in the seven Gold Cup day races at Cheltenham. How well you do in the competition is directly related to how well your selections perform.

Mr Hannigan revealed that there would be an attractive prize fund associated with the competition and that the fundraiser would be well promoted. Indeed, the Shannon Rovers man described it as an “easy sell”.

“I would be hoping that the clubs would back it,” Joe Hannigan said.

“And, I think it is incumbent on the big clubs in the county to stand up and be counted,” Mr Hannigan added.

“We are all the County Board. There are people there looking at the top table to do something about the finances, but it is up to us all to row in behind them,” the Football Board chairman said.

“If we want Tipp teams to be successful at all grades we are going to have to tackle this,” Joe Hannigan said.

County Board chairman Seán Nugent also appealed to the Friends of Tipperary Football and the Tipperary Supporters Club to make a provision to directly fund the activities of the County Board.

Seán Nugent revealed that those entitled to a County Board pass, who had previously been presented with the pass free of charge, would now be asked to make a E25 contribution and that this E25 charge would apply to over seven hundred different individuals, including the County Board chairman, who were entitled to the pass.

“Everyone will have to pay,” Seán Nugent insisted.

“The pass was given out in good times as a gesture to those who were doing good work,” Seán Nugent explained, “but we can’t afford to be as generous now”.

The chairman said that it was the intention of the executive to increase revenue from Lár na Páirce in Thurles.

However Seán Nugent also revealed that an under declaration of VAT with regard to the GAA shop in Lár na Páirce had amounted to E56,713 (E40,000 in under-declared VAT and E16,713 in interest and penalties). Seán Nugent explained that the issue referred to the 2009-2011 period and had materialised as the result of an audit process which was now concluded.

“We have an issue with some parts of it and we will be seeking further clarification on that,” County Board chairman Seán Nugent said.