Sunday 23 October 2016

Comment: The brand, mission statements and KPIs: The GAA has become overrun with corporate bulls**t

Declan Bogue

Published 08/09/2016 | 13:05

It was Paul Galvin's column over the weekend that sent us over the edge.

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First off, a disclaimer. It's not Galvin's fault.

For a man who insists - unlike many - in writing his own column, he has been a sparkling addition to the numerous recently-retired players to offer forward his views on Gaelic games and the general state of the nation.

From the first paragraph, he put me on the back foot by referencing Dublin's 'team personality.'

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There was a mention of their ability to 'crisis-manage' at which point I elicited a shudder.

Around the half-way mark, he went into overdrive on the whole 'brand' thing. On Dublin dragging the GAA into a whole new world, he 'watched their brand activity these last few weeks.'

Then, 'there is no end to the demand from brands for the Brogans, the McCarthys…'

Mossy Quinn, the former elusive corner-forward is the commercial manager with the county board, and he was commended for 'managing the Dublin brand', which in its' own way gives 'the players optimum conditions to perform.'

He's not done yet.

'This kind of all-encompassing approach to protecting and leveraging the brand…'

'…preparation and performance and maintaining brand position…'

And then we had 'Will Dublin's brand recruit again?'

On the subject of their vanquished semi-final opponents, 'The question I'd be asking is how best can Kerry build, grown and leverage their brand…while becoming more and more self-sufficient.'

And the kicker; 'What is our mission statement for the future?'

Ah here. I can take chat of brands, but I once spent two full hours in a meeting with the heads of a previous company trying to tease out what our 'mission statement' was. And as soon as we had it, we were told, everything else would fall into place if we stayed true to the mission statement. Aye, right.

It's not fair to pick on Galvin for this. He is a businessman who probably ploughs through dozens of business manuals, and your reading always informs your writing.

However, this corporate bull is spreading like wildfire in the overall conversations around the GAA. Dropping in references to 'corporate governance' and 'best practise' sorts the Johnny-come-lately's from the veteran committee members.

It has spread from the boardrooms to the fields of play.

True story. A couple of weeks after an Ulster county were beaten this year in their underage competition, one of their selectors was giving a local journalist a steer on his thoughts.

He simply couldn't believe that they had been beaten, because in his own words, 'All the Key Performance Indicators' were in their favour.

This is the way of things now. Teams and managements have looked at what some might call 'best practise' and implemented it. What it really amounts to is pampering teams by taking on all the responsibility and then hiding them from the wider world.

The managers might term this along the lines of removing 'the variables.' But you have to wonder what harm this is doing to the perspective of some players.

This week, the great Donegal and Gaoth Dobhair player Kevin Cassidy called his playing days to a halt after 18 seasons.

For years, he was an accessible and friendly player who had a backstory and a warm welcome. The type of player who one journalist said, 'would answer the phone on Christmas Day and give you ten minutes on the record, before half an hour chat.'

Free-thinkers like Cassidy came along at a more carefree time. During his career, that changed. He wasn't terrified into toeing the line and he made his own decisions. One of them, naturally, led to his exclusion from the Donegal squad when he co-operated with a book I wrote, many, many moons ago.

You could get anything out of Cassidy, but you never got cliché.

At a time when coverage of the games has slid into a rut of generic quotes and interviews only granted on the basis of promoting a product, Cassidy is already a relic of a time when Gaelic athletes were encouraged to have their own minds, instead of dipping into the corporate handbook.

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