THE Cork County Board took the unprecedented step last Friday to hold a press conference to outline the financial state of affairs in Páirc Uí Chaoimh ahead of their county convention.
This has never happened before in advance of the convention, and what was outlined by the chair, Tracey Kennedy, secretary Kevin O’Donovan and treasurer Diarmuid Gowen did not make for pretty listening or reading thereafter.
There were some exceptional one-off items accounting for one quarter of the over €500,000 shortfall, the settlement with former senior administrator Diarmuid O’Donovan presumably being one of them, and also retirement functions.
However, the most worrying aspect of the report was the considerable shortfall in gate receipts, down over €200,000 from the previous year.
The returns from the county board draw were down too but it’s the match attendance figures that really caught the eye.
According to secretary O’Donovan, the drop in revenue from games was huge.
He made the relevant point that shutting down for the summer, no club games of any real significance taking place in the months of June, July and August because of the intercounty dimension being a big factor.
He also made the point that there were no replays in any of the major club games, again a relevant point but replays can be like buses, you might be waiting an hour or two for one and suddenly two or three come along together.
The point was made too that the participation of divisional teams in county finals lessens the attendance on those days.
That has always been the case, and this year you had just over 10,000 souls going through the turnstiles for both county finals.
But that’s the way the cookie crumbles and the loyalty among supporters out there is for the club teams and a divisional unit will never generate the levels of support that the clubs do.
Over the past three years, Imokilly have dominated the hurling landscape in the county and fair play to them for getting their act together when other divisions don’t.
Attendance levels had been dropping before Imokilly made the big breakthrough in 2017, the first time since 1998 that a divisional team had won a county hurling title.
In this day and age there are far more counter attractions out there than there were in bygone eras.
You had a big soccer game on TV the day of this year’s hurling final, featuring Manchester United against Liverpool, and a lukewarm supporter might decide that was a better bet than forking out €20-25 for the hurling match.
In the past you had little or no counter attractions, no soccer games, rugby and so on that you have now, and the modern day sports supporter is far more choosey on how he or she will spend Sunday afternoon.
Long ago it was down the Centre Park Road for a match down the Park, and nothing else was on the agenda but those days are long past.
You have to pose the question too, are admission prices too high, especially for county finals?
Maybe they are, maybe they aren’t, because it’s not cheap either to go to Turners Cross or to Musgrave Park for a Cork City or Munster match, and in fairness here in Cork the Board have tried to be as fair as they can.
When people do give out about the admission for a double-header the answer forthcoming is that you are getting two games for the price of one.
That might be the case but if you attend any double-header at any venue the supporters for the first game are out the gate at the final whistle after their match.
The vast majority of them just don’t hang about for the second game.
There is the criticism then of those arriving for the second match at ten to or five to four for a 4pm start and are charged the full whack, is that fair?
You have to pose the question, are double-headers really working at all?
Maybe there should be a lot more emphasis on country venues, Clonakilty, Dunmanway, Bandon for instance in West Cork, and in the East superb venues like Midleton, Carrigtwohill, Riverstown, Castlemartyr, etc etc.
If you have two East Cork teams in direct opposition, not on a final day but in a game leading up to them, would it make more sense to play that game in Midleton or at a strong venue in close proximity to the two teams involved.
There was an example recently of a Munster club fixture involving Fr O’Neill’s and Clare team Broadford being played in Midleton with an attendance of over 1,500 present. The vast majority of them were East Cork supporters who went to Midleton to see O’Neill’s but who might not have travelled into the city.
There will be a lot more games in 2020 with the new championship formats in both codes and that should generate more revenue. To be fair, the board and its new secretary recognise that things must be better in relation to the playing of games and it was good to hear secretary O’Donovan state that there will be a lot more games in the summer next season.
He states that a fixture programme will be available before Christmas so players have ample time to plan for holidays, J1s, etc. The bottom line really is this, a more realistic approach must be made to the scheduling of games and to where they are played. We have two fantastic stadiums in the city but when it’s possible you need more games at rural venues.