O'Connor Park lease debacle

A forum to air your views on Offaly GAA matters and beyond.
User avatar
bracknaghboy
All Star
Posts: 860
Joined: Sat Oct 11, 2008 10:09 pm

O'Connor Park lease debacle

Post by bracknaghboy » Wed Sep 15, 2021 6:29 pm

The county boards handling of the O'Connor Park lease situation has been nothing short of a calamity.
Very little is being said about it but you can be sure if it happened under any previous county board heads would be called and the 'former greats' would be queuing up to tell the media how appalled they are.
There are a few pieces in the Offaly Express explaining what is going on and I've heard other bits about it that frankly don't reflect well on the CB's negotiating skills.
Isn't money collected from the clubs to pay this lease so whats the problem? Whats the reason it's not being paid? CB have cited Covid among other things but didn't they stop paying it before Covid appeared?
It's not all about bringing in big sponsors and high profile names ,the basic housekeeping and day to day running of the CB needs to be kept up also.
We also had a game called off this weekend as there was no ref available and senior games in both codes are going ahead without neutral linesmen.
This needs to be called out.
There is great optimism around the Offaly GAA at the moment and the CB are doing well in many areas but I think this OCP lease debacle is an unnecessary side show and could have terrible consequences if not resolved quickly.
"Cause she's still preoccupied with 19, 19, 1985"

frankthetank
All Star
Posts: 473
Joined: Wed Jul 01, 2015 9:22 am

Re: O'Connor Park lease debacle

Post by frankthetank » Wed Sep 15, 2021 7:53 pm

It’s quite clear to me that the terms of the lease are not acceptable to the current county board and to be honest who could blame them. The county board who agreed to this lease got absolutely fleeced by Tullamore GAA. The rental fee is index linked to inflation for Christ’s sake. Tullamore are even entitled to a percentage of any naming rights Offaly receive!!

And as Bracknaghboy rightly points out, who is paying for this lease? Or a substantial part of it? Yes, the clubs. So basically every club has to go fundraising every year to collect money that then goes into Tullamore GAA. Crazy stuff and many clubs are furious with this O’Connor Park levy and I for one don’t blame them.

I’d personally love to see Offaly terminate the lease, leave Tullamore with a monstrosity of a white elephant that they can’t finance and then see if any arrangement can be come to with Birr for the use of St Brendan’s Park.

The days of all the other clubs in Offaly having to finance Tullamore GAA has to end.

User avatar
bracknaghboy
All Star
Posts: 860
Joined: Sat Oct 11, 2008 10:09 pm

Re: O'Connor Park lease debacle

Post by bracknaghboy » Wed Sep 15, 2021 9:14 pm

frankthetank wrote:
Wed Sep 15, 2021 7:53 pm
I’d personally love to see Offaly terminate the lease, leave Tullamore with a monstrosity of a white elephant that they can’t finance and then see if any arrangement can be come to with Birr for the use of St Brendan’s Park.
The days of all the other clubs in Offaly having to finance Tullamore GAA has to end.
Cutting off ones nose to spite ones face is never a good idea.
The CB owe Tullamore 48k (CB claim its 33K) and Tullamore have said they ain't discussing anything until that is paid up first. Thats a reasonable position for Tullamore to take.
OCP is a massive part of Offaly GAA so what do the CB want to happen to it? Left to rot? Sold for apartments to be built on?
Seriously, it's the best medium sized GAA facility on the island.
So what then? Move everything to Birr? Well considering lads won't travel 25 mins from Birr to Tullamore for games what hope is there that people will travel over 60 from east Offaly to Birr for every match. We've seen the benefit of having both Birr and Tullamore for championship club games these last 2 seasons.
Make no mistake this is a crisis and Michael Duignan would on every radio station and newspaper if this was a mess of someones elses making in previous years. No doubt Marty Morrissey would be down reporting on it outside OCP.
This is the first real challenging situation the new county board have faced. Using the buzz words like "vision" and "progressive" to get elected is one thing but real leadership is required here to sort this out asap and move on. There is too much at stake here.
"Cause she's still preoccupied with 19, 19, 1985"

Plain of the Herbs
All Star
Posts: 3219
Joined: Sat Nov 27, 2004 4:47 pm

Re: O'Connor Park lease debacle

Post by Plain of the Herbs » Wed Sep 15, 2021 9:19 pm

Whether the lease is acceptable or not is a moot point. It is a legally binding agreement between the two parties, and it’s going to be very difficult for either side to extricate themselves from the agreement.

As for the terms of the agreement, well, that ship sailed when the agreement was signed back in 2002 or whenever it was. And there’s nothing unusual about such a long term agreement being index linked. The Board committed to pay the rent, Tullamore committed to not kick them out before the term had elapsed.

And while an attempt is being made to blacken Tullamore as the bad guys in all this, Tullamore will have budgeted for annual expenditure based on the rent being paid to them, so their spending and other plans are curtailed as long as the agreement is not being honoured.
Pat Donegan. Signed out of respect for players and all involved with Offaly.

User avatar
bracknaghboy
All Star
Posts: 860
Joined: Sat Oct 11, 2008 10:09 pm

Re: O'Connor Park lease debacle

Post by bracknaghboy » Wed Sep 15, 2021 9:30 pm

I don't think it can be summed up any better than this below from POTH.
Plain of the Herbs wrote:
Wed Sep 15, 2021 9:19 pm
Whether the lease is acceptable or not is a moot point. It is a legally binding agreement between the two parties, and it’s going to be very difficult for either side to extricate themselves from the agreement.

As for the terms of the agreement, well, that ship sailed when the agreement was signed back in 2002 or whenever it was. And there’s nothing unusual about such a long term agreement being index linked. The Board committed to pay the rent, Tullamore committed to not kick them out before the term had elapsed.

And while an attempt is being made to blacken Tullamore as the bad guys in all this, Tullamore will have budgeted for annual expenditure based on the rent being paid to them, so their spending and other plans are curtailed as long as the agreement is not being honoured.
"Cause she's still preoccupied with 19, 19, 1985"

User avatar
Bord na Mona man
All Star
Posts: 3671
Joined: Fri Nov 05, 2004 11:34 am
Club: Clara

Re: O'Connor Park lease debacle

Post by Bord na Mona man » Wed Sep 15, 2021 9:34 pm

This is how Michael Duignan will hand over the balance of what's owed to Tellamore GAA club...

https://twitter.com/rianjkeogh/status/1 ... 8255252488

Fairplayalways
All Star
Posts: 496
Joined: Mon Jul 30, 2018 5:12 pm

Re: O'Connor Park lease debacle

Post by Fairplayalways » Thu Sep 16, 2021 1:51 pm

what ever about the original post above blaming current co. board for the situation, isnt it a bit strange it hasnt been an issue until the old guard were ousted..was there a lid being kept on it one would wonder...and after all the development and selling tickets to pay for the development of OCP back in the day, the money was spent on a ground the co. board didnt even own???...isnt that hard to fathom..they have OCP now and a fine development outside Kilcormac, if things are as bad as alleged should a new ground have been included in Faithful fields altogether, of course taking such a venue out of Tullamore would not do down well in Tullamore in both GAA and political circles no doubt...the rent I see mentioned ball park of €50,000 while a huge sum of money surely is something coud be sorted out at that level of an organisation (Co. board and head office of GAA)..I honestly dont know enough about the full ends and outs but, as I said, hows it only an issue now (Covid resulting in no gate money fair enough but surely a big organisation like GAA have a few bob to cover the amounts involved) secondly, OCP kitted out and upgraded and it only on lease is somthing like you hear of in farming comunity where someone rents land for years (almost think they own it building sheds and devleopoing it) and then the owner says "out you go" and all must be left behind...one side at fault there and its not the owner...its not half a million or anything thats owed..strange its turning into an issue now...were promises made by in the past one wonders...

Plain of the Herbs
All Star
Posts: 3219
Joined: Sat Nov 27, 2004 4:47 pm

Re: O'Connor Park lease debacle

Post by Plain of the Herbs » Thu Sep 16, 2021 9:49 pm

I don’t believe there is, or was, anything underhand about the lease arrangement. Certainly it was reported in the media at the time of the signing of the agreement.

In the beginning, Offaly Board didn’t own a blade of grass. Unlike most other counties. Tullamore club owned O’Connor Park and Birr club owned Birr. Over time, the need for a modern county ground became apparent. But to obtain grants and funding from Central Council to develop a county ground required ownership of that ground.

Plan A was to buy O’Connor Park from the Tullamore club. A deal on the purchase was progressing, but then fell through. I’m not going to say why, some people involved have since passed away.

Holding a long leasehold of 35 years or more was acceptable to Central Council if they were to provide the necessary grant aid. The Tullamore club approved the arrangement with a vote, and the following night the clubs of Offaly voted their approval, following a discussion. The terms of the lease were provided to the delegates, and reported in the media. There was no lid.

That was in 2002. The stand was opened in 2006 at the height of the building boom, and local fundraising was to be provided by the sale of long term tickets and corporate packages. Them the crash came.
Pat Donegan. Signed out of respect for players and all involved with Offaly.

kingscounty
All Star
Posts: 980
Joined: Fri Jan 21, 2011 4:42 pm

Re: O'Connor Park lease debacle

Post by kingscounty » Thu Sep 16, 2021 10:04 pm

I’d like to see this come to a conclusion very quickly, from what can only be described as the best year Offaly Gaa has had in over 20 years, to this unfortunate debacle.

If a lease was agreed then it should be honoured. We go from getting Tomas O Se and having good vibes around the place , and within a week this is all over the news. Sit down sort it move on quick

Fairplayalways
All Star
Posts: 496
Joined: Mon Jul 30, 2018 5:12 pm

Re: O'Connor Park lease debacle

Post by Fairplayalways » Fri Sep 17, 2021 9:16 am

replying to plain o herbs or whatever the name is, if the county board, and delegates voted in 2002 to spend huge money on a ground that in effect was only on lease, well there is only one side who made a terrible bad decision, and whether people have passed on or not it jumping out as poor decision, a decision a householder woulndt make to kit out and renovate a rented house if you were in that position..it might look good to the outsider who doesnt really know what your circumstances are but the you dont own it regardless if its 10 year lease or 100 year lease...and like all arrangements when income becomes a factor all these things tend to come to ahead...I still find the amounts involved while great to the ordinary citizen, surely not to a body like the GAA, if 000,000's were borrowed or accessed to do up OCP surely there is €50,000 approx to sort this one...or maybe GAA HQ are thinking as I am thinking above re renovating a ground above that you dont own wouldnt be a great background to the application...I hope it is resolved anyway...lets hope there are now Faithful fields ghosts that will appear in 10 or 15 years time...

User avatar
Lone Shark
All Star
Posts: 5279
Joined: Fri Oct 29, 2004 5:21 pm
Club: Ferbane
Location: Back Home!
Contact:

Re: O'Connor Park lease debacle

Post by Lone Shark » Fri Sep 17, 2021 10:47 am

There's no doubt this needs to be addressed, and quickly. Now obviously there may be details that aren't in the public domain, but there seems to be plenty of good, detailed information out there and based on that, there isn't a lot of debate on where things stand legally. A ground was leased from Tullamore club to Offaly GAA, with terms and conditions laid out, and Tullamore club are continuing to fulfil their side of the agreement. Offaly GAA are not. Also, this thing about Covid being responsible is a red herring. The lease fell into arrears before that, and at any rate, the recent announcement that Offaly recorded a surplus of €77,000 makes a mockery of the "can't afford to pay" argument.

Now you could argue the point that based on the terms of the agreement, Offaly GAA appear to have had Lionel Hutz doing the negotiating for them, and that they were taken to the cleaners. Getting a chunk of naming rights is one thing, getting index-linked payments that have crept up to a very chunky level is another, and the big elephant in the room for me is the short term on the lease. In 15 years, Offaly GAA is effectively homeless, and in property terms, that's no time at all. This is something that needs to be examined now, because if another stadium needs to be built (you'd like to think it won't come to that, but based on how things have gone so far, it can't be ruled out) then Offaly need to start planning for that right now. Also, Offaly can't allow a situation to unfold where they smooth over the current impasse, and then nothing happens for ten years. Imagine there's another property boom, the site gets valued at around €10 million (land only) and in 2037 Tullamore decide they want €150,000 per year. What then?

But it's hardly fair to blame Tullamore for this. Whoever was negotiating on their behalf was doing so in the best interests of the club, as was their moral and legal responsibility. They got a deal that put the club on a very sound financial footing, and of course they're not going to just relinquish that with nothing in it for them. Their only problem is that while Offaly GAA can't realistically afford to lose OCP, it's equally true to say that Tullamore can't afford to take it over and look after it properly either. If it ceases to be the Offaly county ground, there won't be any fixtures in there that generate worthwhile revenue, and everyone knows this. If Tullamore take it over again, they would have to start thinking in terms of selling the land. And while that might be something that they'd consider in 15 years time, right now the stand is still very modern by GAA standards, more than fit for purpose, and it would seem a waste to tear it down.

So we have a situation where both sides know where we need to get to, which is either a proper long term lease, 100 years or so, or else a full on sale of the ground from Tullamore to Offaly. Tullamore don't seem to want this, which is understandable. Offaly GAA needs this, and it may even be the case that withholding rent is partially a way of giving them something to "offer" when negotiations open up. To use another Simpsons reference, it's like when Homer made the call to a friend and said "Remember last month when I paid back that loan? Well now I want YOU to do a favour for ME!". It's a weak negotiation position though, and again, this is another instance where legally, Tullamore are on firm ground.

The only trump card Offaly have in all this, and it's an ethereal one, is that there's a fine line between a club maximising its income, and a club taking advantage of a strong position to the detriment of all others. There are 41 clubs in the county, and barring a JP McManus figure emerges or something very strange happens, Tullamore will always be the wealthiest, and the one with the biggest pick of players. Others will always envy that, and that's fine, and natural.

But if the perception changes from Tullamore being a wealthy club to Tullamore being a greedy landlord, squeezing the rest of the county, then that's another matter. Moreover, if there is a sense that Offaly's long-craved progress is being stymied by the terms of this deal, then there will be a huge level of anger levelled at them. Mix anger and pride at a very heated county board meeting some winter's night and suddenly the aforementioned "cutting off your nose to spite your face" becomes a real possibility. All it'll take is one furious but charismatic delegate to stand up and talk about how their club, picking from a population of 600 or 700 people, a club that might only have €30,000 in total income for the year, had to pay €3,000 in affiliation fees and how that money is just going to Tullamore, and suddenly there could be a tidal wave. One or two radical people will even talk about the possibility of denying Tullamore affiliation to Offaly GAA entirely, saying that they're sabotaging the county. That will never pass a vote, but small stuff could creep in. Clubs will go out of their way not to accommodate fixture changes (which can be crippling for a dual club), selectors on county development panels will deliberately omit Tullamore players, a cranky club diehard might make a big show of not dealing with a certain company because they sponsor Tullamore, or any one of a thousand other little things.

(And before anyone says that things would never go that far, I've seen examples of every one of those things happening, either in Offaly or elsewhere).

Above all, you'll have people saying that Offaly should cut Tullamore loose and start fresh with a greenfield site. And that might not pass a vote, but if the mood was right and blood was running hot, it might.

That leads us back to the point that this needs cool heads on both sides to step in and sort this out, now. The competitive side in all of us means it's natural to pursue the "win" in any situation in life, including negotiations. Beat the other guy, take the win. However if this process is adversarial, the county is doomed. Tullamore and Offaly GAA are effectively like a married couple in that regard - there might be a short term boost in picking up a win over the other side, but that won't make you better off in the long run, both sides have to feel like they've got something out of the arrangement.
Kevin Egan. Signed out of respect for players and all involved with Offaly.

greenairfield
All Star
Posts: 688
Joined: Thu Jan 01, 2015 12:20 pm
Club: birr

Re: O'Connor Park lease debacle

Post by greenairfield » Fri Sep 17, 2021 11:04 am

Bracknaghboy from day one since the old committee left you have been very vocal against Duginan and the new committee.

It was them old crew who signed up this crazy agreement and I agree with the points above why should clubs in Offaly pay Tullamore GAA club every year due to a shady handshake and overpriced rent.

Let them off what can Tullamore do with the big white elephant they will soon come running back.

SBP will welcome Offaly with open arms also.

hamstrings
Junior A
Posts: 31
Joined: Tue Feb 16, 2016 2:05 pm

Re: O'Connor Park lease debacle

Post by hamstrings » Fri Sep 17, 2021 11:42 am

Is there any other county with a similar set up to offaly and their county ground? Have laois a similar set up with omoore park and portlaoise GAA club ?
Either way offaly needs O'Connor park and tullamore needs offaly to rent it. Both parties will be damaged if they don't come to an outcome to suit both parties

User avatar
Lone Shark
All Star
Posts: 5279
Joined: Fri Oct 29, 2004 5:21 pm
Club: Ferbane
Location: Back Home!
Contact:

Re: O'Connor Park lease debacle

Post by Lone Shark » Fri Sep 17, 2021 12:18 pm

I think OMP was sold to Laois GAA, but I could be wrong.

The ownership of Dr. Hyde Park is similarly messy, and there would be plenty of people in Roscommon who would have made the same argument, that the home club (Roscommon Gaels) should have been told to take a running jump. There is a slight difference there however that the ground is ramshackle, and not fit for purpose. There's also a lot more secrecy, which is not a good sign.

Louth would be another where they don't own any of their own grounds. I've an inkling in the back of my mind that Fermanagh/Brewster Park could be the same, but I'm far from certain of that and would be absolutely open to correction.
Kevin Egan. Signed out of respect for players and all involved with Offaly.

User avatar
The Biff
All Star
Posts: 451
Joined: Mon Nov 22, 2004 1:23 pm
Location: Kildare (ex Daingean)

Re: O'Connor Park lease debacle

Post by The Biff » Fri Sep 17, 2021 4:23 pm

I recall that McHale Park in Castlebar is also owned by the local club. According to the "irrefutable" authority of Wikipedia (in fairness, it references the Western People newspaper), in 2005, the County Board agreed a 50 Year Lease on the stadium before embarking on their Upgrade work. Not that Mayo GAA are a shining example of how to be successful. :twisted:

Some good reasoned opinions posted above. Clearly there would be no "winners" if the current Lease is broken, and valid legally-binding Lease Agreements should be honoured, or possibly re-negotiated in good faith. I never had much love for the Tullamore club from my playing days (long long ago) but that was probably more down to regarding them as the Big Boys. My suspicion is that type of sentiment might persist among some/many other Clubs. This is where Michael Duignan needs to step up and tackle this as a proper respected County Chairman. That's a position that many of his predecessors have not enjoyed. He must remember that both parties to this Lease are of the same great National Organisation. Since Michael's primary role is to represent one of those parties, maybe the Arbitrator should be the Leinster Council. However knowing that the Leinster Council Chairman is a past Offaly Chairman, I'm not sure if that might help or hinder.

Just remember that it could be so much worse. You could be in Kildare, with arguably the worst County Ground in the country and "notions above their station" for many of the Lilywhites. WE are The Faithful County, and that means that we find a way to keep the Faith.
Peter Parker: I missed the part where that's MY problem.

Post Reply