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Board under fire

Board under fire

Leading review figure calls for GAA County Board to resign en masse

Edwin McGreal

The officers of the Mayo GAA Board should resign after last week’s County Board meeting revealed the extent of the debt hanging over McHale Park, Castlebar.
That’s the view of a leading figure in the ill-fated Mayo GAA Strategic Review Committee who has stated the board ‘should resign or be removed’.
PJ Monaghan was the Chairman of the Finance and Funding subcommittee as part of an overall Action Plan which met to carry out a ‘root and branch analysis’ of Mayo GAA last winter. That strategic group, under the overall chair of Ballinrobe man Liam Horan, collided with the County Board over some of their proposals and eventually distanced themselves earlier this year from the Board’s final strategic plan, which Horan said was ‘a watered-down’ document with ‘no heart or soul’.
Now Monaghan has spoken out after last week’s meeting where club delegates were told that Ulster Bank and Croke Park, who gave loans totaling €10.5m to Mayo County Board for McHale Park, were ‘putting pressure’ on the board to increase the level of payments they were making on the debt.
To date the board has been paying close to €500,000 per annum, which has been doing little more than covering the interest on the loans, Board Treasurer JP Lambe told the meeting. One capital payment of €500,000 has also been paid.
Now Croke Park and the Ulster Bank are demanding that the Board make a continuous effort to pay off the principal and, depending on what is agreed, it could mean an increase of between €100,000 and €500,000 in the board’s repayment obligations.
Speaking to The Mayo News last night, Monaghan, a Belmullet native who runs a project management company in Dublin, said that when the Mayo GAA Strategic Review Committee sought figures last year, they received ‘no co-operation’, yet those figures were released by the County Board last week.
He argues that even if the Mayo GAA Board had maintained their 2006 income, they couldn’t afford Croke Park and ‘what was presented as a great asset could now destroy Mayo GAA for generations to come as we direct money away from Coaching and Games development to pay for this facility’.
“The battle for the future of Mayo GAA no longer rests with its players. It will now be played out in the boardrooms of Croke Park and Ulster Bank. Can we realistically think that the individuals who run our affairs have the ability or indeed the credibility to act on our behalf any longer?  Past performances have proved that they can’t so the Clubs need to move and regain control of our affairs. We are now in the hands of the clubs and I call on them to move against this inept board,” said Monaghan.
He argues that the board should ‘resign or be removed’, that an interim-board be put in place, and that an independent finance committee with relevant expertise be set up to prepare a ‘proper financial plan and negotiate with Ulster Bank and Croke Park’.
However, outgoing Mayo GAA Secretary Seán Feeney dismissed Monaghan’s comments, arguing that the clubs in Mayo always have recourse for change.
“What I will say is that the board is democratically elected,” he told The Mayo News. “Each club selects a delegate and the delegates, in effect, select the Executive of the Board. You couldn’t be more democratic. Personnel will change over time but what has been said by him [PJ Monaghan] is silly in my view.
”McHale Park is not just a Mayo stadium, it is a Connacht stadium. We originally had plans for a smaller venue but we were advised by the Connacht Council and by Croke Park that if we were building at all, that we should do it on the scale of what we did do,” said Feeney.
He said that their initial plan was for a stadium with a maximum spend of €10m before they decided to go with the bigger project. To date they have spent €16.637m and have outstanding costs of €1.615m which they have not been able to pay as of yet.
Croke Park gave Mayo County Board two weeks from last month to come up with a plan on how they were going to raise additional monies. They have been struggling to make the interest repayments up to now but haven’t defaulted on any payments.
“We’d be hoping to get to a stage where we will be paying back between €600,000 and €700,000 per annum,” said Feeney. “If we are able to restructure our loans, we will be able to meet our obligations comfortably with the resources we currently have. At the minute the repayment period is over 15 years which is tight. We will be hoping to get that period extended and we’ll also be looking for more assistance on this from Croke Park.”

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