Irish Times article as saying that “We treat all of our counties exactly the same. We give Leitrim the same direct financial support as we give any of the large-population counties. I think there’s an issue of fairness here.”
Duffy’s argument is that the ‘weaker’ counties, with lower population and funding resources, must incur similar levels of
expenditure to ‘stronger’ counties in terms of travel, meal and medical costs, as well as having to fund players’ expenses for travelling to training from large population areas. Consequently, Duffy would like to see “a county like Leitrim or Longford…… getting more money from us. Some of the bigger counties……could do with less from us”.
With the current redistribution system, ‘stronger’ counties are already subsidising the ‘weaker’ counties as most Central Council gate revenue is generated by the former, yet distributed equally among all counties. In economics jargon, weaker counties are net beneficiaries from the revenue pool.
This idea of re-distribution is usually justified in terms of ‘promoting competitive balance’. Many sports have some form of revenue-sharing mechanism or constraints on talent accumulation, e.g. salary caps and player drafts, that seek to minimise the gap between the large/rich and small/poor clubs in order to‘level the playing field’ and maintain fan interest.
If such a proposal were to be implemented, would it be successful in improving the outcomes, in terms of playing success, of weaker counties? One of the biggest problems for many GAA counties is that their talent pool is restricted by geographic location and there is no transfer market as in professional sports. Given these constraints, providing more financial resources may not translate into much greater playing success, however ‘success’ is defined.
While Duffy talks in general terms about amending the re-distribution mechanism, and rightly foresees complaints from those that would have their funding cut, he offers little indication as to what criteria might be used to assess whether one county receives more than another. While the report makes reference to differences in population size, the number of clubs in the county and what division of the National League a county is in, what other criteria might be used? Previous spending? Average attendance at home games? The number of championship games won over a given time period? As well as this, if counties are to receive different allocations, how much different will these allocations be? Whatever criteria are used, the GAA will need to ensure that there are no perverse incentives whereby a county may find it in its interests not to exert maximum ‘effort’ on the field in order to benefit financially.
As Gaelic football and hurling are amateur games for players, the GAA cannot impose a salary cap to control spending on talent. Instead, Duffy talks about regulating spending on county teams. As it is likely that the interests of Central Council will be in direct conflict with those of many county boards, it will be interesting to see how successful the GAA would be in effectively tracking all spending on teams and what penalties would apply to those counties that break any spending regulations.