Friday 23 March 2018

GAA bans text messaging directly to teenage club members

Ralph Riegel

A GAA move to stop clubs from sending round-robin text messages directly to juvenile players because of a new child protection regime is set to have sweeping implications for Irish sports clubs. The GAA, under an initiative triggered by Croke Park's new code of practice for juvenile members, is telling its 14,500 clubs that text messages can only be sent directly to under-18s with the written consent of their parents or guardians.

While a majority of soccer, athletics, swimming and rugby clubs already send such alerts directly to parents, some have used round-robin text messages to brief players in their late teens about matches, training sessions and upcoming club events.

The GAA move is set to trigger a copycat move by other sports bodies that text messages. Like other Irish sports clubs, the GAA -- with 250,000 members -- had found round-robin text messages to be a cost-effective way of alerting players to match times and training sessions as well key pieces of club news.

The GAA has started briefing club officials on the policy which has been matched by the GAA moving to have all its juvenile mentors submit garda vetting forms before such measures become mandatory.

GAA Children's Office director Gearoid O Maolmhichil said it did not make sense for middle-aged people to have the mobile phone numbers of young teenagers.

"Of course there can be an exception to the rule for a 16 or 17 year old where the parent chooses that that is the person, for domestic purposes or other purposes, that should get the text, then fine," he said.

Irish Independent

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