Delegates enthusiastically back budget proposals

THE Birds’ Nest at St Conleth’s Park, Newbridge, was packed to the rafters on Tuesday evening last as club delegates gathered for their first meeting of 2013, writes Tommy Callaghan.

THE Birds’ Nest at St Conleth’s Park, Newbridge, was packed to the rafters on Tuesday evening last as club delegates gathered for their first meeting of 2013, writes Tommy Callaghan.

It was not unlike the first day back at school after the holidays.

Top table (with a few absentees) all looking spic and span and ready for action.

The body of the room saw many familiar faces, occupying the same seats they have been for as far back as some us can remember, with a splatter of new faces dotted here and there and, not uncommon, just a few ladies representing in the attendance.

In the front row were a few unfamiliar faces (at least at these gatherings) all looking somewhat distinguished and it didn’t take long before we realised this was no ordinary group. They were in fact members of a small but very select and vitally important group collectively known as the Audit Support Committee. They included Francis O’Connor of Celbridge (chief spokesman), John McCarthy (Leixlip), Shane Malone (Raheens), Alan Dunney (Caragh) and Ted Wynne of Athy (to be joined in 2013 by Martin Whyte and Kathleen O’Neill.

Chairman, John McMahon, gave a brief history of the financial state of the County Board, nothing it has to be said that was not already in the public domain. The chairman had given a commitment some time ago that at the first meeting in February the budget for 2013 would be unveiled, warts and all, and this in fact is what we got.

Mr O’Connor was direct and to the point, no pussy footing here, as he addressed the attendance stating from the outset exactly where the County Board stood, financial wise at the minute.

Again nothing that we did not know prior to this but, shall we say leaving no one in any doubt that unless one of two courses of actions were taken things could go from poor to critical.

In total the County Board are in the red to the tune of E2,054,460.

A stark figure no matter what way one looks at it. But maybe not as bleak as when looked at initially.

That figure is made up of two increments.

The first, a sum of some E1.434m is outstanding on the Hawkfield project and is being repaid on a mortgage basis, funded by a levy on every club in the county. Because of that, according to Mr O’Connor, it is totally manageable and is not a concern or a problem.

However, the second item is where the problem lies and that is the loan secured from Croke Park and that is for the tidy figure of E670,000. That loan was taken out to clear all outstanding debts and help in the day-to-day running of the county board, and is to be repaid at the rate of E100,000 per year to headquarters until cleared.

Included in that figure was a sum of E80,000 owned to players for their expenses back in October and November and that, according to Mr O’Connor was where the red line was draw and to all intents and purposes was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

There is little doubt that enormous work has been carried out by this budget committee that has met 28 times in the last few weeks as they prepared their proposals, not alone for the County Board but also for Croke Park, which all county boards are obliged to do now.

Alan Dunney explained that every manager in charge of a county team has been called in and a review of last year’s expenditure has been gone through line per line. “Cut backs have been implemented and will be continued to be implemented to ensure no slack,” he added.

Mr Dunney emphasised that expenditure spread sheets are now filled out on a strictly monthly basis (with the co-operation of each manager) so it is known immediately if the projections are being met and if not, appropriate taken.

Mr O’Connor pinpointed exactly where the County Board was falling down, compared to other counties throughout the country and looked at comparisons with other counties under the banner of Key Performance Indicator (KPI).

These KPI’s come under five specific headings.

The first one being Income from Associated Bodies and here Kildare fared very well with the national average coming in at 25 per cent with Kildare reaching 33 per cent.

Fundraising: and here the chart shows that the average county was fund raising 16 per cent of their entire income compared to Kildare’s six per cent.

The amount of money spent on team preparations on average was 45 per cent while Kildare stood at 35 per cent; the average spent on Coaching and Games Development averaged at 25 per cent while Kildare’s spend stood at 19 cent.

Mr. O’Connor deducted two specific things from these findings.

(1) As a county and taking into account Kildare’s spend on county training expenditure (ten per cent less than the average) Mr O’Connor’s opined that, “Kildare have been in fact punching way above our weight, having been in the last five All Ireland quarter finals plus the final and semi final of the Christy Ring.”

And (two) Kildare’s real problem and one that must be tackled, is that the county’s fundraising is totally out of sync with all other counties, and according to Mr O’Connor, it is here that the problem can (and must) be tackled.

So the way forward, or more importantly, where is or how is the extra revenue going to be generated from.

At the moment there are nine fundraising events planned. These include Club Kildare Membership Drive; Development Squad Golf Outing; Mud Run; a weekend county wide collection; Club Kildare summer draw; Club Kildare Golf Classic; Kildare GAA Year Book and Calendar; Corporate Breakfast and Kildare Race Day.

Summing up Mr O’Connor emphasised that the projections leave little room for manoeuvre.

“There is no wriggle room and that while it would be nice to say we were under budgeting our revenues, this is not the case; similarly on the costs we do not have anything in reserve so in fact what is required to meet the targets is to raise between E75,000 and E100,00 over and above last year which will ensure no problem with the banks during heavy expenditure in mid-summer and will enable us to finish up the year when we will have a few decent few bob as we plan for the budget for 2014.”

Mr O’Connor, however emphasised that it is the membership, in other words the club delegates and the county board who must make the policy decisions.

“The choice is yours,” he emphasised adding “you either fund raise that extra E100,000 or simply we will have to go back to the players and team managers and tell them we have to cut you further, regardless of the consequences.”

Chairman John McMahon thanked the Budget Committee and said that what we have heard tonight is “frank, stark and even somewhat scary” adding that we must not only get the debt under control but it needs to be brought down.”

Mr McMahon said that every single item of expenditure and income has been examined, “there is no room for slippage and any unexpected problems and the county board could find itself in trouble as he informed delegates that going back to the banks, going back to Croke Park and going back to the Leinster Council is simply not an option any more.”

Marty McEvoy, Commercial Manager of the Co. Board gave details of a county wide collection he is planning in a few weeks and asked clubs to provide people throughout the entire length and breadth of the county.

Despite the stark financial situation that the board finds itself in at present there was, nevertheless, an air of optimist from delegates.

Colm Nolan from Maynooth said there had been a disconnect between the county board and the clubs and that it was now time to draw a line in the sand and time to send out a positive message that we can and will sort out the problems.

Other delegates came out with similar sentiments while Joe Fox (St Kevin’s) said that much of what is being planned as fundraising ventures are not new but that over the last few years these projects have simply not been supported, adding that the attitude of some clubs have of “don’t come near us” has to go and must change if we are to turn this thing around.”

The budget proposals were passed unanimously.

- Tommy Callaghan