Sunday 23 April 2017

Hypocrisy in GAA world gone bad

County boards are supposed to be guardians of the rules they create but they are happy to bend them to suit their needs

Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

THE big difference, and the even bigger delight, between running an organisation and commenting on its affairs lies in the area of responsibility.

That applies across most areas of activity, but let's confine it to sport for now. This column -- and indeed the others which deal with GAA affairs -- can offer any opinion, theory, suggestion or criticism it wishes.

It is allowed to toss a broad range of ingredients into the mix while a generous pinch of mischief always spices up the flavour. And there's no better way to work it through the digestive system than with a vigorous swim against the tide.

That's what columnists do, because it's what the public wants. Interestingly, though, you never know who you might meet up river nowadays. Officially, they are heading downstream with the main flow because that's what the manual instructs, but they don't actually believe in it.

That's certainly the case in the GAA, which majors in introducing regulations, only to begin the undermining process almost immediately. The attacks come from within, whether from team managers who appear to think that most rules are specifically aimed at preventing them from doing their jobs, or county boards who haven't got the courage to implement regulations whose introduction they supported.

Bad law needs to be challenged, but surely that should come during the planning phase. Take the November-December training ban. However well-intentioned it may have been, it was always destined for a controversial life.

Unique

Preventing players getting together to train for games they love and adorn is surely unique in world sport, just as there are no games in the world other than Gaelic football and hurling where top-line activity is off-menu for between four and seven months, depending on when a county's championship campaign ends.

The training ban and payments to managers top the hypocrisy list. Some counties who voted for the November-December moratorium have allowed their managers to flout it. Bizarrely, there's anecdotal evidence that some county boards are paying the managers who are demanding that the training ban be ignored. It's double jeopardy, GAA-style.

Connacht Council secretary John Prenty raises the training ban issue in his annual report, posing a series of questions to the officers from the five western counties who will be attending the province's convention.

Did their counties violate the ban at any level? His view isn't encouraging. He is "hopeful but not confident" that the rule was upheld.

His Leinster counterpart Michael Delaney notes in his report that it is "strongly rumoured that quite a few counties are now practically ignoring the rule while others have invented some creative activities to get around it".

And then comes an informative follow-on: "Naturally, county board officers will not come out and say that I'm right, not that I would expect them to do so." What? A board incriminating itself? Hardly!

The real crux rests with county boards' view of responsibility. Delegates will happily vote for the introduction of a rule at Congress, only to ignore it on their return home. Presumably, it only applies to the other 31 counties!

It's a form of sporting corruption which continues to be rampant. County boards are supposed to be guardians of the rules they create, yet they are happy to bend them to suit their particular needs.

In effect, they want to be the Government and Opposition at the same time.

Take disciplinary matters. Boards will use just about any technicality available if it helps get an inter-county player off the hook, yet then expect their own clubs to accept the internal disciplinary systems.

And remember the nonsense some years ago when, in one of the most unfair decisions ever foisted on weaker counties, Division 4 sides were prevented from playing in the All-Ireland football qualifiers?

Sheepishly, the counties impacted upon raised no real objections when the proposal came before Special Congress, despite the compelling evidence that it was bad for their players.

Things changed quickly once the counties realised just how unfair it was and Congress later rescinded the original decision. Once again though, it highlighted the inconsistencies which bedevil GAA regulations.

It also underlined just how unfit for purpose Congress, or its equally erratic cousin, Special Congress, is in making major decisions.

The training ban will be amended in some form in April; replaced, no doubt, by a different system, which, after sailing through Congress, will then be largely ignored. Never mind consistency in a world gone mad, this is hypocrisy in a world gone bad.

Mayo fan bucks trend by focusing on the positives

We live in a time when complaining seems to be a first, rather than a last, resort so it's good to see that there are some people out there who acknowledge when something is done right and who appreciate it. Try this from Mayo man Michael Staunton.

"May I introduce myself as an OAP, a GAA supporter and an enthusiastic reader of your paper on GAA matters. Some weeks ago, there was an article in the Irish Independent, giving examples of how the GAA could improve the promotion of its games.

"In this regard, I wish to compliment the Mayo County Board, giving the FBD League final as an example. It had three important promotional points.

1. The Mayo team was announced mid-week, allowing time for discussion on the selection, thereby generating interest in the game.

2. Admission: €10 and €5. Excellent in these recessionary times.

3. An attractive colour programme. Price €1. Again, no complaints.

"If all counties followed this example, the result would be greater attendances at games than has been the case to date."

Can't argue with that.

Irish Independent

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