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Prenty: inter-county season still uncertain

Sport

VOICE OF EXPERIENCE Connacht GAA Council Secretary John Prenty. Pic: Sportsfile

Mike Finnerty

THE current chances of the GAA inter-county championships being played this season are rated at ‘50-50 at best’, according to John Prenty, Connacht GAA Council CEO.
Speaking exclusively to The Mayo News, the experienced administrator also said he would be ‘very wary’ of inter-county matches being played behind closed doors and warned that there will be ‘serious financial implications’ for County Boards if that happens.
The 2020 GAA season is scheduled to restart on the weekend of October 17/18 with round six of the National Football League, while Mayo’s opening game in the Connacht championship against Leitrim is fixed for Saturday, October 31.
“We’ve got to go with the advice from the health authorities,” said John Prenty. “So there will have to be a decision made. Are we prepared to play behind closed doors?
“Personally, I’d be very wary about going down the road of playing GAA matches in empty stadiums. It’s completely alien to the way of the people who make up the Association, our way of life, the way we do things. But we may have to go down that road.
“It’s been done in the likes of the Premier League, but that’s a professional sport. We’re an amateur organisation and going to games, having supporters there, is part of our DNA.
“The ‘pros’ are that we get the games played and complete the 2020 championships,” he added. “The ‘cons’ are that there would be major financial implications for County Boards across the country. Realistically, most of them won’t be in a position to compete anyway if they don’t cut back on the costs of preparing their inter-county teams.”
All inter-county teams are clear to resume collective training from September 18, four weeks before the National Football League is due to resume for Mayo away to Galway.
But between the current crowd restrictions affecting income from club gates, and the cost of each inter-county training session estimated at €10,000, John Prenty believes that some hard decisions will have to made by County Board officials and inter-county managers.
“With the restrictions on crowds at club games staying at 200 for another three weeks, that means that County Boards are losing around €3,000 per club championship match until at least August 31,” he outlined.
“And it costs a minimum of €10,000 at the moment for an inter-county training session. So it could cost a lot of teams around €100,000, if they start training on September 18, to play in their first championship match at the end of October.
“It’s €60,000 if they only train one day a week in that six week period.
“Attendances pay for all of this, along with the money from TV rights and sponsorship.
“If there are no games played, then there is no money generated at all.
“If the games are played behind closed doors, then you still have the TV and sponsorship money.
“But you have to factor in that 35% of all monies generated for each game are taken up by costs like insurance, Gardai being on duty, pitch rental, and actually staging the game in the first place.
“If the games have to be played behind closed doors, then I don’t think it can be done from a cost point of view for County Boards without serious cutbacks on inter-county overheads like travel and catering,” he added.
“County Boards may not be in a position to pay full travel expenses (each player currently receives 65c per mile, 50c of that coming from individual County Board and 15c from Croke Park). It’s just not realistically affordable without gate receipts.
“So players may have to make major decisions about things like that.”

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