Sunday 4 December 2016

Crisis looms for GAA after stars admit to being paid

MARIE CROWE, EXCLUSIVE

Published 12/06/2011 | 05:00

a number of high-profile GAA club and inter-county players received cash payments and inducements in pay-for-play deals, a Sunday Independent investigation has revealed.

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This paper has spoken to several well-known players and a definite picture has emerged of under-the-table deals being carried out across the country.

Despite the GAA being an amateur association these players readily admitted that over a period of time they were paid and rewarded for their services to their clubs and counties. The Sunday Independent has agreed not to identify the players because of the nature of the payments they received.

One high-profile player, who lined out with his county team with distinction for many years, detailed how he had heard that there were deals on offer in a big club so he put feelers out to see if they were interested in him.

A club representative subsequently made contact with him and a meeting was arranged. The deal was made in a matter of minutes, a yearly figure was agreed and specific dates for the payments to be made were also arranged. The player refused to divulge the exact amount, although it is known that it was a five-figure sum.

His deal with the club was a gentleman's agreement rather than a written contract, and there were never any issues with the payments.

"I don't really agree with the idea of GAA players getting paid but in the current economic climate it's impossible to turn down offers like that when they are readily available," the player told the Sunday Independent. "It would be a different story if it was my own club but when it's not I don't feel bad about it."

The player was also able to reveal details of other players who were on similar deals in other clubs and counties around the country. Some received cars, cash lump sums, complimentary mobile phones and rent allowance.

These revelations will be a major shock to the GAA which has been grappling for some time with the issue of illicit payments to managers. A report on the subject, compiled by GAA director-general Páraic Duffy, is with the Management Committee, but so far there is no solution to what Christy Cooney described at this year's Congress as "a cancer" in the games.

There must also be the fear in today's economic climate, that players who are struggling to make a living are more likely to be tempted by an offer to be paid to play, particularly if it means the difference between emigrating or staying at home. While many clubs will be appalled that their best young players, nurtured through years of voluntary effort, can effectively be enticed in this way by a bigger club. Another player, who is playing for his county in the current championship, revealed that he was approached by a big club from another county. The player was offered an inducement to leave his home club and transfer to the other club.

Although he didn't receive a cash payment, the player confirmed that he was fixed up with a job and his new club also contributed to his accommodation costs. Again, there was no signed agreement, with the transfer essentially becoming the contract.

"They were able to get me a good job and give me a rent allowance and when you have nothing it's simply impossible to say no to that kind of a deal," he admitted.

"I had no intention of leaving my club but when I got the call and they outlined what they could offer me, I just couldn't turn it down. When word filtered out I was possibly on the move I got a few more calls from other clubs sussing me out about potential moves, it was like the transfer market."

Another inter-county star who played in several All-Ireland finals admitted that he was financially rewarded for playing for his county.

The player was planning to emigrate in search of work prior to the start of the championship some years ago. But a wealthy supporter of the county team came forward and offered this player money on the condition he would stay around and play championship football. The payments continued for over six months.

"If I stayed until September how was I going to live? I had to pay my mortgage at home, pay my bills. I couldn't commit to a job because I was going to Australia. Was I to turn that down and say 'ah no I'll live on €10 from my mother and father'?"

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