Camogie’s biggest benefactor gives back to the game she loves

CARMEL NAUGHTON is either the greatest benefactor the sport of camogie has had or its most important sponsor of all time.

For someone who has become the most influential female business partner in all of Irish sport, she goes to great lengths throughout our interview to emphasize that her multimillion-euro outlay was not for praise .

“We certainly don’t do it to give thanks, but we do it for what we hope is for the good of Camogie and, to some extent, for the good of the country,” she explains.

So instant gratification and backslap can be crossed in the list of possible reasons why a grandmother of 10 would want to become one of the biggest players in Irish sports sponsorship at this point in her life.

Even getting him to promote his investment in Camogie took some persuasion, first with a phone call that felt more like a friendly interview, which then paved the way for a fascinating insight into some of the most intriguing benefactors. Sport.

For those who don’t already know, Carmel Naughton is the media-shy matriarch of electrical goods empire Glen Dimplex, who outside the embrace of family, philanthropy and business places love camogie as one of the most formative experiences in her. life.

Such a passion for the sport has remained intact in her nearly eight decades on earth, and last March she shook up the commercial world of sport when she was unveiled as the new sponsor of the All Ireland Camogie Championship and of the Camogie Association.

Naughton and Glen Dimplex have been announced as part of an extraordinary five-year deal that would see an unprecedented investment in gaming – in an initial partnership that is a lifetime for a first-time sponsor.

Throughout our conversation and subsequent exchanges, there is no doubt that this investment is unique in the sponsor-rights holder relationship – with this arrangement, sport must come first for the investor and the brand of the business second. A refreshing position, and perhaps extraordinary.

To fully absorb what the Carmel Naughton-Glen Dimplex arrangement means for camogie and women’s sports, it helps to appreciate the size of this investment.

According to the most reliable information, Naughton and the company Glen Dimplex – established in a multi-billion euro business by her husband Martin – will pump millions into the game during the initial term of the agreement.

A trusted insider thinks this arrangement could be as high as €1m a year, but whatever the actual total is, it’s not something she doesn’t want to get into except to describe it as “meaningful”.

This money going to the Camogie Association comes partly from Carmel Naughton’s personal money and partly from the Glen Dimplex investment, in which all branding and marketing assets go directly to the company.

The cash exchanges will take camogie to heights it could only dream of, as it now has the funds to redistribute significantly to the 600 clubs and up to 100,000 girls and women who play.

So where does lasting passion for the sport begin? For Carmel Naughton, it dates back to County Monaghan, when times were less inclusive, and when she remembers girls being told they were “stupid”.

While there’s still a long way to go for all of women’s sports, the sports landscape of the 1950s and 60s was rather ominous.

“We just did things the best we could,” she said evenly.

The best they could, for Naughton, her sister Nuala O’Malley and a group of other great young girls, was to rely on themselves alone to provide the equipment and resources they needed to play.

“We made our own uniforms, which consisted of a short mustard skirt and big thick woolen tights”, which she recalls were not to everyone’s approval.

“I can assure you that the Monaghan of the 1950s and 1960s was not an exciting place, so we really made the most of it.

“It’s amazing how we didn’t have coaches, but we brought our camogie sticks and went out to play ourselves.

“That’s why the Ireland of today excites me now, especially how far girls’ (and women’s) sport has come – today girls can strive to do whatever they want. want in sport, education or business.”

Not being told she could do anything would only spur her on, especially after an even deeper exchange that led to another big development in Carmel’s later years.

“I remember we had a nun at school who told us that the girls were stupid and couldn’t do math,” she explains, with the same disbelief today that the comments provoked in the era.

Many years later, she would establish the Naughton Foundation which awards scholarships to all students – boys and girls – with a focus on STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and math.

The Foundation was established by Martin (now the advisory chairman of Glen Dimplex) and Carmel Naughton in 1994 for education and the arts, and was transformed into a scholarship program in 2008 to support Leaving Cert students.

This work probably best demonstrates that giving back is a key part of her makeup – albeit for someone with the means and desire to do so, well into later life.

That motivation turned to camogie where Naughton said she always wanted to do something of value, and a conversation at a reception with GAA business manager Peter McKenna in recent years led to her big move.

“When I met Peter (McKenna), I told him we were trying to organize something for the Camogie game, and told him to come back to me when he was ready.

“I told him he would push an open door.”

McKenna quickly introduced her and Glen Dimplex to the relevant folks at the Camogie Association and the process of setting up a trade deal evolved.

Producing contracts can be a time-consuming process in any major sport, especially for a first major partner, and Naughton admits she much preferred “the days when deals were done with a handshake and your word. “.

“Of course, these things are very much needed today and once the paperwork and agreements were finalized, I was extremely happy that Camogie was created financially, and here we are,” she says. .

And exactly where they are is on the eve of a first ‘Glen Dimplex All-Ireland Final’ in which Carmel Naughton will witness this reality at Croke Park, along with his team-mates from his days at Monaghan.

It’s abundantly clear that the sponsorship has had a huge impact on the Camogie Association – its president Hilda Breslin has described the partnership as something that would see so many plans she has for the game come to fruition.

“This new sponsorship allows us to advance so many important initiatives and allows us to plan for the future. We look forward to working together to grow this wonderful women’s sport,” said Breslin.

It’s a very Irish thing that rights holders and business partners don’t usually elaborate on the value of these deals, and this one is no different.

“It’s a substantial amount but really I’m not comfortable talking about it,” she replied when asked rudely about the money.

“The real value is what the Camogie Association can do with that money and the good it will do for the sport.”

Certainly, the profile of the Camogie Championship rose early in the life of the arrangement purely in terms of pure visibility, with engaging video and ad activations evident across social media and all media.

Game development will follow, and an expected increase in participation that such a huge investment should bring.

And with commercial ownership of one of the four major leagues in all of Ireland, Carmel Naughton’s entry into sports sponsorship was a revelation for the calm-voiced and deeply thoughtful camogie saviour.

“It’s a position in which I’m very lucky,” she concludes.

Toya J. Bell