Cork GAA Convention report: Páirc Uí Chaoimh debt dominates the agenda

Cork GAA Convention report: Páirc Uí Chaoimh debt dominates the agenda
Marc Sheehan, Vice Chairperson, Tracey Kennedy, Chairperson Cork County Board and Kevin O'Donovan, CEO/Secretary at convention in Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Picture: Jim Coughlan

CORK County Board chairperson Tracey Kennedy has emphasised the importance of the appointment of a commercial manager if the county is to arrest its recent financial slide.

The board has reported losses of €559,058 for 2019 while there is also a large debt on the new Páirc Uí Chaoimh. In her address to delegates at yesterday’s annual convention at the venue, Kennedy acknowledged the challenging times facing Cork but expressed confidence that they can be overcome.

“We must face up to the fact that we can no longer depend on gate revenue to fund our activities,” she said, “even taking into account the championship reform we hope will lead to improved takings next year.

“It is possible that as a county, the significant resources we had at our disposal before the redevelopment of the stadium led to complacency in some ways. The appointment of our financial planning and advisory sub-committee during the year was partly for the purposes of examining possible alternative income streams, and that body is recommending the appointment of a commercial manager, something that we must give serious consideration to.

“Other counties have already taken this initiative, and I am absolutely confident that with a population like ours and so much support out there for the GAA, we should be able to harness this to support our finances. This must happen in a co-ordinated manner, however, including [fundraising body] Cairde Chorcaí and the stadium also, if it is to be truly effective.

“The stadium project also continues to be an extremely frustrating one for all of us, and we must accept that it will take longer than originally envisaged before it becomes profitable. The failure of the pitch earlier this year was a low point for us all, and obviously had a significant impact on the stadium’s capacity to generate revenue, along with being a general setback to the whole project. However, progress is being made, albeit slowly, we should now have a pitch in place on which we can rely, and which opens up many new possibilities to us.

“We have some fantastic people involved, we are working on new management structures for the stadium, we have relaunched the premium tickets, which are an absolutely vital funding stream, we have at least two big concerts here next year, rugby offers us a possible extra revenue stream, and above all, we must not lose sight of the wonderful asset we have here in the stadium.”

Kennedy admitted that the gravity of the stadium situation made her question her involvement, but she is now looking ahead with positivity and called for unity.

“Like our own homes, those of you who have big mortgages – like mine, anyway! – it will cost us money for many years but it will be here long after us and we will be able to hand it on to the next generation with pride,” she said.

“It has the potential to be not just the pride of Cork GAA, but the pride of Cork, and it is our home. The last couple of weeks have been incredibly difficult for me as I struggled to juggle the demands of a new job with the realisation of the scale of our financial challenges, and there is no doubt that during the past week, I descended into self-pity, wondering if it would be better for my own mental and physical health if I just walked away from it all. However, that is not what I want to do. I want to take on the many opportunities we have to continue our improvements. I want to stand before you this time next year with Cork GAA in a much better place.

“And I had forgotten one thing –in the words of a favourite song of mine, I’m only one, but not alone. I have a huge resource to tap into – I have all of you. Last year, and probably the year before too, I spoke about how the county board is the clubs. We are all one family, we all share the concerns, we all share the highs and the lows, and I am certain that working together, we can overcome the obstacles and transform them into opportunities.”

Prior to Kennedy’s speech, delegates raised a number of issues on subjects such as divisional involvement in county championships, the late running of the U21 championships and difficulties for dual clubs.

John O’Flynn of Freemount raised concerns regarding the stadium’s accounts and called for a full meeting to be held when they are published, as well for the board of directors to reveal the future plans for the facility. Kennedy said that the board was fully cognisant of the issues and admitted she couldn’t say for certain when the stadium would become fully profitable. She agreed that a full meeting of the stadium board would be appropriate.

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