Brendan Furlong's Hop Ball column
Time for G.A.A. to improve marketing of club encounters
It's high time for a G.A.A. marketing push.
Following a drop of some €54,000 in gate receipts, the promoting and marketing of our games is now more important than ever.
The G.A.A. at national level realised when the recession hit that it would face a significant challenge to maintain attendance figures. Not alone have crowds steadied at national level, they have actually increased on an annual basis.
But this has not filtered through to many counties. While most counties have been badly hit with emigration, the challenge facing the G.A.A. in counties like Wexford lies in the marketing of our games in both hurling and football.
Wexford has been particularly successful in commercial income and sponsorship, but much of this evaporated this year with the fall-off in attendances, with particularly disappointing returns from both Senior finals. Should this trend continue through 2016 it could have serious financial ramifications for the county.
It is difficult to compare year on year, but the scheduling of so many games at knockout championship stages in the two-month period of September and October has been a major contributory factor in the fall-off in attendances.
Take the dual club. They are calling on the same group of supporters for each championship outing which makes for two hugely expensive months when family support is bracketed into this.
This can only be sustained for a given period, but with no strategic fixtures plan, and clubs playing successive weekends over an eight-week period, the financial strain on pockets is sure to tell.
The packaging of so many games together leaves little opportunity for players to recover from knocks and prepare for either code, with this in turn leading to a drop in standards.
It is no fault of players, as they are being handed a totally unacceptable fixtures schedule, particularly when some key months of summer pass by without any major championship games.
The inter-county scene will be offered up as a reason. Well, the time has now arrived for less time to be given between inter-county games, and more club championship games to be played off during key summer months, coupled with an earlier start, which should free up space to allow players to prepare for the key games from quarter-finals through to finals.
When it comes to marketing of our games the players play a key role. But the G.A.A. also has a number of other advantages when selling its games.
They are embedded in every parish, with county finals having a huge impact, but their failure to market the games through the schools in the parishes, with special ticket promotions, has also been a lost opportunity.
Increasingly, the G.A.A. has designed packages for old age pensioners and students, but in the current technological age the time has arrived to have the games ticketed through various outlets in the county.
On match day supporters can also have the opportunity of purchasing their admission tickets from special caravans placed outside the ground, making the venue more user-friendly.
If tickets only had to be handed over at turnstiles, this in turn would alleviate queues and people wouldn't be searching their bags or pockets for change.
The G.A.A. should also consider special juvenile group promotions, and if a club wants to organise 15 people or up to 50, they can attend the games at a special discount.
The current policy for major games, if not all games, of not having the venues ticketed can be deemed less user-friendly, and does little for the promotion and marketing of our games.
Every sporting organisation is moving forward in this technological age with cash transactions at venues now a thing of the past. For inter-county it has all moved towards tickets with no cash at turnstiles, and now is the time for counties to take such a major leap for club championship games to meet the demands of supporters.
The demand for matches is still huge, but the G.A.A. in the county must become more professional in not just the marketing of the games, but also in how professional they are run off, from the very moment a spectator arrives at the ground.
The emphasis on attracting spectators must be a number one priority for the G.A.A. in the county.