Recent reports that Croke Park had to give a loan in the region of €300,000 to the Kildare county board has to be seen as a worrying trend that has started to emerge since the financial bubble burst a few years back.
It has been well documented since the new year that there were at least a third of county boards running at a deficit. While there is nothing new about county boards spending more than they collected, a number of years ago Croke Park had to come up with a million euro to bail out the Roscommon county board who couldn’t meet a loan that had been called in.
We have the Wexford county board, who apparently owe the revenue commissioners, and then there has been reports that the Mayo county board showed a profit of €100,000 for last year but after redeveloping MacHale Park they have dept of millions.
There are clubs and county boards all over the country under the same financial circumstances but are reluctant to go public fearing what might be said about the decisions that they made in the past.
The authorities in Croke Park must also be reluctant to discuss the situation in public because they will have gone as guarantor for most if not all the loans.
What would happen if one or more of these county boards with this huge dept were to go belly up? Could the finances of the Association sustain this burden? Who would carry the can for putting the boards in this predicament considering the people that implemented the loans may not be on the present boards?
This has been coming down the road for a number of years now but I think when you hear of a county like Kildare, who have always had a huge financial backing down through the years, getting into trouble it asks the question about those not so well off counties who have continued to spend money at the same rates it did in the boom years. What’s around the corner for them?
In all the counties that are in bother the common factor seems to be the development of a Centre of Excellence. In the good times this was what we were all told - that we needed if we wanted compete at the top. We were told that we needed a place where all our county teams could train; where we would have the ability to take the best young footballers and coaches and make them into the finished article; we were to have state of the art floodlit pitches, dressing rooms, comparisons were made to the training centres that the top premiership soccer clubs have and nobody said stop.
Even now in the mire of all these financial woes the Cork county board are to redevelop Pairc Ui Chaoimh giving them a capacity of 60,000. Our own county board have continued with the Centre of Excellence in Convoy and while I have commented on many occasions about going ahead in these financially restricted times, we continue to borrow.
What happens if the well dries up and the clubs, not just in this county, are asked to come up with the cash while at the same time struggling to keep things going at grassroots level? What can be done by those in power in Croke Park to keep a close eye on the spending of county boards? What can be done to make sure that present county boards don’t leave the finances of counties in the same position the bankers and politicians left the country? While the coffers of Croke Park may be plentiful I doubt if they are anywhere near that of the I.M.F.
Club players deserve better
Last weekend a lot of clubs had to play two fixtures, one on the Friday night and another on Sunday. I know I have always said more has to be done to make sure that club players get competitive games regularly but asking them to leave work early and in some cases travel from Dublin after a full week’s work to play a game is not ideal. Considering we are told we have to rest county players seven days before championship matches and sometimes longer, I don’t think it’s altogether fair to make such demands of club players who know they will probably spend more weekends without games in the summer than they will play. More discussion is needed in this area with the people that matter.