Eugene McGee: Archaic Congress serves no purpose
Published 19/04/2010 | 05:00
I am always amused when I see leading GAA officials proclaim how progressive and modern-thinking the organisation has become and how sophisticated GAA people are when addressing changes in rules or other ways of making the GAA run itself differently.
It starts off with the president of the day setting up a committee, which will usually be chaired by a prominent GAA official who has campaigned strongly for the election of that particular president. Prominent people, even players nowadays, will then be added in to form an impressive-looking outfit.
This committee will carry out its task for two or three years, then publish very impressive documents which indicate that unless the committee's proposals are implemented by GAA Congress, the world will come to an end.
This ritual is repeated by numerous committees set up in each presidency, so that the GAA is certainly the most governed organisation in Irish sport.
That is the theory about how change is made in the GAA, but the reality is, the majority of GAA members are opposed to change, no matter what is suggested.
Year after year the same proposals are rejected at Congress because your average GAA person wants to keep things as they have always been. That is why this year's Congress was so depressing, as yet again the delegates, most of whom were mandated by the clubs in their own counties, voted against nearly every proposal for change.
And remember this was supposed to be a special year. Playing-rule changes can only be proposed every five years and 2010 was one which allowed such propositions. Very important GAA people had assembled to draw up proposed changes and these were tried out for the last four months at senior county level.
But if the top GAA officers really believed that things might change, they were living in cloud cuckoo land. Yet again most of the 300-plus delegates voted like sheep, with little application to debating the proposed changes. Instead, shoals of hands went up from all over Ireland and abroad saying: 'Sure, we are grand the way we are'.
This is but the latest in a whole series of well-thought-out proposals aimed at improving the quality of Gaelic football that has been choked to death by conservative GAA people.
Their gospel is 'No Surrender' when these 'smarty pants' committee members try to tell the Larry McGanns of this world how to run the GAA. Presidents, director-generals, provincial chairmen and others have all learned that the hard way.
It was pathetic to see on Saturday that no delegate took part in the debate on the motion to introduce the mark in football. The sole aim of this proposal was to preserve the greatest skill in the game; the high catch. The fact that nobody in any part of Ireland debated the issue shows how little people care for the fundamentals of the game of football.
It was the same with the refusal to make players pass the ball with the fisted pass instead of the current handpass-cum-throw which is the norm now. Handpassing has taken over from kicking the ball to an alarming extent, but no GAA people seem to care about that, so handpassing will come to dominate and ruin Gaelic football.
But there are lots of other examples from this Congress of the inability of rank-and-file GAA members around Ireland to make changes. Delegates rushed to keep competitions which are seriously damaging to club games for little in return.
Motions to abolish the Intermediate and Junior championships, which are largely irrelevant nowadays, were soundly beaten. And it was also decided to maintain the All-Ireland minor football quarter-finals, which are a fairly modern creation.
All these games will cause chaos in several counties as club matches are delayed at short notice. They are a luxury the GAA fixture makers cannot afford. The GAA claims it is making elaborate plans to sort out club fixtures in line with other sports like rugby and soccer. That will be the day!
Every time GAA headquarters make genuine proposals for eliminating some of the unimportant competitions at county level, they are stymied by delegates at Congress who want to retain the status quo. The only competitions that was put in abeyance for one year at least were the old Railway Cups, but they had little or no impact on club fixtures anyway.
There are of course situations where even the mass of Congress delegates can vote for change and money is one of the most obvious. That's why the delegates swept through the motion that Central Council should have the power to make Croke Park available for any sort of activity, sporting or otherwise, if they see fit.
And see fit they certainly will as they try to compensate for the €36m earned by the GAA from soccer and rugby over the last four years.
Isn't it amazing how virulent and intemperate the debate was over the original decision to open Croke Park yet a few years later, and with €36m in the GAA's back pocket for distribution, there was hardly a murmur of protest -- other than Cork's Bob Honohan -- as the decision was waved through on Saturday? If only money could solve the club fixtures' problems.
Matters that don't really concern your ordinary GAA man or woman can easily get passed also, which is why the GPA deal was sanctioned. Around the club grounds of Ireland, the GPA hardly ever crosses the local radar because the GPA is seen as a sort of academic exercise that will merely add to the bureaucracy of the GAA as an organisation; just one more committee to add to the long list in Croke Park. Dessie Farrell may prove them wrong.
GAA Congress is an archaic way of controlling the progressive body the GAA wishes to be. It is too large and needs to be conducted in a more businesslike manner that would contribute something useful. It is hard to justify Congress's existence without major changes.