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Finance

Croke Park returns fuel record financial year for GAA

Featured image credit: GAA

The Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) has reported record revenues for the 2022 financial year, aided by the ability of Croke Park Stadium to make a record contribution to the figures.

The GAA’s 2022 financial report, incorporating the 12 months ending September 30, saw the governing body benefit from the opening up following the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic. A combination of the full return of spectators to matches and a record number of seven concerts held at Croke Park helped the GAA’s Central Council to return a consolidated surplus of €6.7m (£5.98m/$7.32m), which was an increase of €4.8m on 2021.

GAA Central Council gate receipts for 2022 came to €33.37m, versus €11.67m in 2021, commercial income was €22m, and there was a record distribution from Croke Park of €17m. The GAA’s Central Council generated record income of €96.13m in total, above last year’s figure of €68.27m and surpassing the €73.9m taken in during the last comparable financial year before COVID, 2019.

Croke Park, which is owned by the GAA, reopened its doors again to a full match day fixture calendar, with the added bonus of securing an unprecedented series of seven concerts over the course of the year – two featuring Ed Sheeran and five with Garth Brooks.

The GAA said these seven concerts aligned with continued strong demand for premium and suite level ticket renewals, the return of conference and events activity and stable rental income delivered from the Croke Park Hotel. These elements combined to produce a Croke Park Stadium operating surplus of €18.4m in 2022.

This in turn afforded the stadium board the ability to propose a record level of distribution back to Council of €17m, when no contribution was possible in 2021. However, the GAA warned that stadium operational costs remain challenged from inflationary factors, adding that utility costs have increased by 300% to €2.3m. This is a combination of a 150% increase in unit energy rates along with the return to normal stadium usage during the year.

Stadium director Peter McKenna has also stated that these returns should be treated as “exceptional” in nature, adding that a “more modest set of results” should be expected for 2023 with no concerts scheduled and “significant negative variants” such as rising energy costs.

GAA director general, Tom Ryan, said: “Croke Park Stadium made a record net contribution of €17m to GAA in 2022. This was made possible through a combination of solid match day attendances, continued and strong renewal demand for premium and suite term tickets, and of course combined with seven very successful concert dates during the year.

“The Stadium has again demonstrated its versatility and vital importance in delivering income to fund the Association’s programmes. Although our resources are considerable and our capacity is recovering, there are some very onerous financial commitments planned for the coming years.”

Ryan also touched on the thorny subject matter of the long-delayed Casement Park project. In May, work was set to resume on getting the project off the ground after a legal challenge against the major redevelopment of the Belfast-based GAA stadium was rejected.

The decision of Northern Ireland’s former Infrastructure Minister, Nichola Mallon, to grant planning permission for the redevelopment of Casement Park went to the High Court following a challenge from the Mooreland and Owenvarragh Residents Association (MORA).

Planning permission had been granted for the redevelopment of Casement Park in July 2021, with work on a new 34,578-seat Gaelic sports stadium having been due to begin in the first half of 2022.

Planning permission was given after Mallon recommended the project for approval in October 2020.

However, MORA sought a judicial review of the planning permission, with some of those living in the immediate area of the stadium concerned at the scale of the project.

Under the original funding model, the cost of the new stadium was estimated at £77.5m with £62.5m coming from local government and the GAA contributing £15m. In the GAA’s report, Ryan stated the Association would not be changing its financial contribution while outlining how the budget for the project has soared.

He said: “Full planning permission for Casement Park was granted during the year and I hope that the way will shortly become clear for works to commence. Inflationary movement since the original plan was conceived puts the estimated stadium development costs somewhere between £120m and £140m.

“We have reached full provision for our contracted commitment to the project of £15m. Our investment cannot exceed this amount. However, the final funding agreement with the British Government Department of Culture Arts and Leisure remains to be finalised.”

Uncertainty over funding for the project has put its status in doubt as a potential host venue under the UK and Ireland joint bid for UEFA Euro 2028.