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Mayo GAA funding row takes fresh twist


RAISING ISSUES Mr Tim O’Leary, the chairman and founder of the Mayo GAA International Supporters Foundation, is pictured at the gala fundraiser in New York last May which was run by the Foundation in conjunction with Mayo GAA. However, their relationship has soured in recent months.

Edwin McGreal

THE funding row between the Mayo GAA Board and the Mayo GAA International Supporters Foundation has escalated.
The latest twist comes with millionaire donor Tim O’Leary making a series of fresh allegations in a five-page statement issued on Sunday night last.
O’Leary – the Chairman of the Foundation – alleges that there is ‘a culture of intimidation and bullying’ within the Mayo GAA Board; that GAA clubs in the county ‘live in fear’ of the board; and that he was called a ‘donkey’ by a leading board officer.
O’Leary was also highly critical of the board’s process of selecting sponsors for Mayo GAA.
The Mayo GAA International Supporters Foundation are currently withholding €250,000 from the Mayo GAA Board over what they describe as ‘governance issues’.
The Mayo GAA Board have not yet fully responded to the Foundation’s initial claims which were made four weeks ago.
The Foundation said at that time they would not be releasing the funds, earmarked for projects including Mayo GAA’s Centre of Excellence at Lough Lannagh, Castlebar, until detailed business plans from the board were submitted to them.
In this latest statement, which was circulated to all Mayo GAA clubs and leading Mayo GAA officials, O’Leary, a London-based market trader, revealed terms of Mayo GAA’s sponsorship agreement with their main sponsor, Castlebar-based sportswear giants Elverys.
He said he was given a copy of the sponsorship agreement by a ‘senior officer of Mayo GAA’, and said he questioned the ‘performance related terms’. He was also critical of provision of All-Ireland tickets to the sponsor.
Mr O’Leary added he was ‘not questioning the integrity or motives of the current provider as in fairness their primary objective is to do the best possible deal for their business’.

Mayo GAA defend sponsorship deal
IN response to queries from The Mayo News about the contents of Mr O’Leary’s latest statement, Mayo GAA PRO Paul Cunnane issued a statement last night (Monday).
He said that the board are ‘in the course of preparing a full response to the clubs in relation to the board’s dealings with the Foundation’. He said this will be dealt with at the next County Board meeting on Wednesday week, October 30.
The board were due to meet last Wednesday, October 16 but that meeting was postponed.
However, Cunnane did move to comment on sponsorship on the Board’s behalf.
“We need to point out as a matter of urgency that all commercial and sponsorship deals are confidential between the parties. What we can confirm is that the current main sponsorship represents a significant investment annually for Elverys when the baseline figure and performance bonuses are included. It is one of the largest sponsorships in the GAA. We can also confirm that all sponsors tickets are invoiced and paid for in full.
“Elverys have been great partners for Mayo GAA since the mid 1990s and continue to be so and we are most grateful for the support they give to our teams and clubs,” they stated.
Mr O’Leary – whose mother is a native of Glenhest –  also claimed he was called a ‘donkey’ by Mayo GAA Treasurer Kevin O’Toole, and attached a copy of an email from Mr O’Toole’s Mayo GAA account last August which stated ‘I would ask the board to answer this donkey but that probably won’t happen this time either’.
Mr O’Leary said many individuals, including Foundation donors, have ‘questioned my motivation for taking such a hard line with the County Board’. He went on to outline a series of reasons for ‘speaking out’.
They include: ‘I am a very passionate Mayo GAA supporter’ and that ‘many individuals have contacted me to say that my voice in calling out what is happening at board level might provide much greater long-term value than any money I provide’.
Mr O’Leary said he has provided €415,000 to Mayo GAA in a 12-month period.
He was also critical of how clubs in Mayo have to subsidise the board.
“A number of clubs have contacted me in relation to this particular matter and have stated they live in fear of consequences from the board if they fail to make their payments. It is absolutely shocking that clubs should live in such fear and are obliged to subsidise the incompetence at board level,” wrote Mr O’Leary.
He also went on to describe what he called a ‘culture of intimidation and bullying which clearly exists within the board’, adding ‘I am not one to be bullied or intimidated. If anything, it has only motivated me further to expose this culture’.
Mr O’Leary argued that Mayo GAA is at a ‘crossroads’.
“After ten years of relative success and a phenomenal collection of players, we are now at a major crossroads and we need a fit for purpose board, business strategy and governance structure to align with our on-field ambitions.”
Meanwhile, it has also emerged that Mayo GAA failed to send any representatives to last Saturday’s GAA Special Congress where a two-tier championship structure was approved.