Tuesday 25 October 2016

Colm O'Rourke: Better to continue payments crusade than do nothing

Compromise is the best solution to the payments to managers conundrum, writes Colm O'Rourke

Published 20/03/2011 | 05:00

I t appears as if the money trail to managers has gone cold again. A bit like tracking down Lord Lucan or the abominable snowman of the Himalayas, reported sightings are many but they never come to anything substantial.

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Páraic Duffy has reported no obvious progress. It is unlikely anyway that any manager -- club or county -- was sweating on the outcome of the deliberations. So how do you legislate for something unofficial?

For a lot of GAA people, what passes between consenting adults behind closed doors should be kept there. If a club or county wants to pay somebody to manage their team and this arrangement has the blessing of the club through their committee, then the view is that it is best to turn a blind eye. There are not many who are paying substantial money anyway so sometimes it is best to allow them to learn the hard way that pouring a lot of club resources into the management of one team is short-sighted and usually ends in tears.

I have had plenty of people tell me about their experiences with the club they love and work hard for. Clubs who could not win anything turned to an outsider who cost more than the price of a good car but who delivered a championship which has turned the club inside out. Now there are more volunteers, bigger numbers turning out for all the teams and the investment in a good management team has paid off in spades.

The argument always ends with their view that this would not have been possible with someone from within their own club. Too many factions, families not getting on, petty jealousies, prospective managers trying to undermine the existing manager -- anyone who has ever been involved in a club knows the script. How could anyone then argue that a few quid to a manager has not been good for the GAA in general and the club in particular if it unites a group of players and supporters to a common cause?

The counter-argument is that money is better invested in the general running of a club by the members for the members and payments to outsiders or, worse again, insiders is going against the accepted wisdom of an amateur organisation where everyone gives of their time, energy and money in the interests of their own community. Even King Solomon, in all his wisdom, would not be able to square that circle. The compromise is somewhere in the middle.

Some would feel that the solution is to ensure managers come exclusively from within their own club, and the same at county level. At a stroke it would put paid (excuse the pun) to outside managers at all levels. Yet it would only exaggerate the problems of so many clubs and indeed counties who feel that to progress they must look at a wider field.

As a general rule, the club should know best and it would hardly be sensible for clubs to push their members into dire financial straits -- and many are in them already -- in the sole pursuit of a championship title which, even if it came, could have too high a price. Of course these harsh times have put manners on everyone and the expenses to managers, to give them their proper title, have dropped appreciably. There is absolutely nothing wrong with giving a manager something between €50 and €100 a week depending on distance travelled, but most people in a club should have a big problem with anything more than that.

What has sprung up in the last few years is a small number of 'career managers'. These are the type who keep three or four clubs hanging on at the beginning of every year while they see where they can do the best deal. And the best deal is in the interest of their pocket and certainly not loyalty to a cause because you cannot buy that. There are not many in this category but there are a few in every county.

The trouble is that the majority can be tainted by this practice. Most of the time those who get involved with management, whether it is inside or outside their own club, do so because they want to see if they can be successful at it. Very few could be labelled mercenaries so it is unfair to tar everyone with the same brush.

The same is true at county level. Again the reason for seeking a different county is to test their ability in a different place -- a lot of prophets haven't been accepted in their own land. Most of course fail if the measure of success is

purely in terms of winning championships or All-Irelands but there are other things that are sometimes disregarded. There is the simple enjoyment of playing, the bonds of friendship, the value in community spirit, the health benefits, the growth in self-confidence. None of these things are necessarily linked to the sole pursuit of winning.

When it comes to the management of a county team, I think it would be better to try and put some monetary value on the activity which would rule out any kind of whispering campaign against outside or inside managers. If a manager of a county side was given something like a basic €10,000 in expenses plus mileage rising to €20,000 if the team get to the latter stages of the championship, it would tie the thing down once and for all. Then there would be no speculation, no side deals with supporters' clubs, and it might also attract a different calibre of management as many simply cannot afford to give the time at the moment. It might also save some counties money.

Páraic Duffy might feel that he is trying to nail down something while many of those who are involved in the process are running for cover. In the end, the choice is between an attempt at regulation or no regulation. The recent conduct of our unsupervised banks should make that a simple enough choice. Far better to try some form of intervention which can be amended in time than doing nothing at all.

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