OpinionRoad Running

So many Races, So little Profit

Christmas is a great time to reflect on it all; not life – God no – athletics.

It’s a time when everyone is back in their locality, Athletes turn up to local races to run, steward, watch and eat all the sandwiches at the community hall. Most of these races are club and community orientated: the Belgooly 4-mile, the Bandon 5-mile, the Togher 5k, to name a few in my area. Athletics clubs provide an outlet for their community; that is the point of their existence and, at the same time, these road races provide much-needed publicity and funds for these clubs.

In turn, these clubs also provide us with our future internationals, most of whom are involved with their clubs from at least their teenage years. These clubs provide a service – they entertain, train, babysit, coach and inspire these kids and, every once in a while, they produce a gem. Most of this occurs without any major help from their Association. Athletes often complain about the GAA, some of it warranted, some not, but the one thing that cannot be denied is that the money from the association does filter its way down to the clubs.

Can the same be said of the AAI?

According to Cork Running Blog research found here ,in 2008 there were 62 races in Cork alone, whereas in 2014 there were 279 races. Cash money, right? But where is it going?

There are two main points we need to take into consideration here: the licence fee – €50 for clubs and €500 for commercial events – and also the effect the event has on other events in the area. The following is taken from the AAI Road racing handbook found here

“1.3 What other events might it conflict with?
A key consideration, and vital before a date is set, is what competing events or activities might affect the success of the race. This will primarily relate to checking what other road races there are in the area around the proposed date of the race (remembering that events in the weeks before and after a race may have an impact). Other local events which are likely to attract large crowds have to be a consideration such as a major match or a local show.”

With 279 races on the calendar, there is surely quite a few races being affected. While no one is arguing the amount of money being generated by athletics in this country, I would argue that the AAI, and therefore the clubs, are not receiving enough of this money and the amount of commercially-run races is directly affecting the club’s fundraisers.

There appears to be a lack of regulation on these permits and races are popping up willy-nilly. What can the AAI do to regulate these races to prioritise club fundraisers and furthermore, what can be done to funnel these commercial profits into clubs in communities around the country? No one is doubting that the road-running boom is beneficial for our sport – just look at all the new recruits out pounding the pavement on any given evening, or the rising entry numbers in road races across the country – but the question has to be asked: where’s all that money going?

At the moment, it appears that, more often than not, it’s going straight into the pockets of business people who have turned their hand to sport, rather than sports people who have turned their hand to business. It’s time to change that.

Courtesy of Sonia O'Sullivan
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Ronan Duggan

Ronan Duggan

Ronan Duggan is an athlete, coach, athletics fan and, most importantly, was once named Bandon AFC's under-12 Player of the Year. He was once a promising athlete but is now a promising coach, teacher and part-time athletics writer/broadcaster. While an 800m runner himself, Ronan has coached everything from pole vault to 10km with varying levels of bluffing. He has regularly been threatening to do something for years but is yet to deliver. He is regarded as our expert on the American running scene, though has yet, to prove his knowledge in this realm.


  1. Ray
    January 5, 2015 at 8:04 pm — Reply

    As far as I know, most club races are decent fundraisers for their clubs. If they aren’t, the club soon stops putting them on.
    Two problems
    – the GAA rakes in money from sponsorship and tv rights, as well as gate money from big matches (or concerts!) The AAI doesn’t have this money flow. It can’t give money to clubs that it doesn’t have (and if it had money, should it be going to clubs or to athletes?)
    – if some commercial race sets up on the same weekend as a club race, and doesn’t get approval from the county board, how many people will know or care? How many club runners will refuse to run it? What can the county board or national body do to stop unlicensed races siphoning runners away from club races?

  2. Liam Treacy
    January 6, 2015 at 10:17 pm — Reply

    Agree with your sentiments except the clubs ARE the association! Ground up and self reliant. Can’t be disappointed then!

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