News Colm O'Rourke

Sunday 21 September 2014

Colm O'Rourke: Vote on payments another exercise in GAA hypocrisy

Clubs have more pressing concerns right now than payments to managers, says Colm O'Rourke

Published 26/02/2012 | 05:00

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The votes are counted and managers are not going to be paid. Did anyone seriously think it would be any other way?

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This is like the band playing on while the Titanic went down -- the GAA similarly operates in a make-believe world. Of course everyone can say this is what happens when the masses get a vote but this vote and many more in the GAA are an exercise in hypocrisy not democracy.

The only sure thing about this is that the agreement to retain the status quo when it comes to paying managers will be ignored in exactly the same way as other decisions made in the last few years.

What we have now at almost all levels of the GAA is an a la carte application of rules and regulations. Clubs and, maybe even more so, county boards take a look at the menu and decide what they will implement and what they will ignore. If counties decide they want a manager, especially one from outside, they will find a thousand ways to get around the issue of payments.

On the face of it, there will be nothing but legitimate expenses but there are many ways to skin a cat. This is hard on the majority who are tarred with the same brush as the few who get over the odds.

What has happened over the last few weeks is the ultimate in self-delusion. The manner of decision-making in this case should have followed a set route. Clubs should have called a meeting to discuss this issue and instructed their county board delegates to vote in a certain way. It did not happen in most cases because, as far as clubs are concerned, this is a non-issue for them.

Now to the county board meeting itself. Many delegates trooped in without any direction on how to vote and spoke darkly about how payments to managers would destroy the whole ethos of the organisation. This coming from many clubs that are paying people to look after their own teams.

I often wonder if these same delegates who are worried about the contamination involved in paying managers were asked about paying secretaries or full-time coaches in a county, would their view be the same? They would probably vote against this form of professionalism but they were never given the chance. Just as well too because full-time administrators of the right calibre, and committed, visionary coaches, can transform a county.

Yet the manager who may put in more work than any of these is denied payment because it is deemed contrary to the 'ethos of the organisation'. Seems a half-baked philosophy to me, but when the idea is dismissed on the principle of 'ethos' it makes a lot of people feel good. And so we have a new in-phrase to sit alongside 'the current economic climate'.

I have always expressed discomfort that clubs go to a lot of trouble raising money to hand away to someone from outside the parish. It has to be best practice to have someone local to run your teams and I thought 'the current economic climate' might solve the issue as clubs struggle to make ends meet.

Yet there are managers on the circuit and the only issue to be resolved every year is how much they are in demand and therefore, how much they command. However, many clubs take an opposite view and feel that an outsider gets more out of existing players and gives them a better chance of success. This in turn leads to better club morale and greater ability to raise finance. My view on that is if breaking stones keeps you happy then keep at it. If clubs want to go a different road then let them at it.

In reality, though, this issue raises few questions at club meetings at the moment. What is of much greater concern is the cost of insurance, affiliation fees, the

number of players who have emigrated and how much it is going to cost to run the club for the year. The days of jerseys hanging on someone's line rather than going to the cleaners are back and the punishment for swiping a jersey now is having a hand cut off. That is how tight things are. The issue of paying managers, at inter-county level particularly, would not get a minute's discussion relative to these items.

The follow-on from the decision not to pay managers seems to be some form of national data base of managers where their personal details are kept in Croke Park. I can see most managers telling their county boards to take a running jump.

What the GAA needs to do is to have simple rules which are enforced by all units. Bad law is worse than no law at all and the GAA has many versions, payments to managers and the closed season are two recent examples. Great big elephants in the room with plenty of opinions on how to solve them so long as it does not mean counties or clubs toeing the official line.

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