Wednesday 19 June 2019

Time for GAA to start treating boys and girls the same

'A level playing field between women playing the sport is important but it also has to be level when stacked against the men’s game.' Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
'A level playing field between women playing the sport is important but it also has to be level when stacked against the men’s game.' Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Sinead Kissane

Sinead Kissane

When a "level playing field" was given as the reason for not having Hawk-Eye in use at Croke Park on Sunday for the All-Ireland Ladies football finals, it felt like some version of Trumpist ridicule was at play.

A majority of representatives had voted at a meeting of the Ladies Gaelic Football Association (LGFA) Central Council earlier this year not to use Hawk-Eye.

Why? Because, we're told, it would not be fair to the players who wouldn't play at Croke Park. It felt like the fight for the moral high-ground was already in action.

Just like the Camogie Association's vote to draw lots in the event of teams finishing level on points in last year's championship, decisions like this have a way of being outed on the big occasion.

When Carla Rowe's first-half score for Dublin was incorrectly adjudged to have been wide, this decision not to use Hawk-Eye cracked in the glare of the head-lights.

"The decision was taken that in order to have a level playing field for all teams playing on all fields throughout the country, throughout the championship, that we wouldn't use Hawk-Eye," an LGFA spokesman said on Sunday.

This has all the bang of narrow navel gazing about it. How did they think this decision not to use Hawk-Eye would stand up when there is a comparable sport that men play which uses technology like this on their big days at Croke Park?

Where was the 'big picture thinking' here? Was there any appreciation of how unequal this would look in comparison to the men's game?

The decision-makers looked at the wrong "level playing field" here.

I cannot imagine the same outrage among female players that there isn't Hawk-Eye in every venue they play in as some of the Dublin players would have felt on Sunday when they lost by a point.

When a decision is made not to remove the risk of human-error in officiating from the big days the same way the GAA has done for the men's game, it compromises credibility, especially when those decisions are made by people in power who should be doing all they can to protect and progress their sport.

Look at the Camogie Association. They brought in Hawk-Eye last year and also had it for their semi-finals at Semple Stadium and for the final at Croke Park this summer.

It is also difficult to imagine that cost didn't play a big part in the decision-making.

In that Central Council meeting, the cost of using Hawk-Eye was fully laid out: the price of the recalibration, the cost per match, and the cost of the extra microphones would bring the overall cost of using Hawkeye to between €14,000 and €17,000.

Ultimately, the decision not to use Hawk-Eye comes against the backdrop of a sport which is constantly and rightly compared to the way the men are treated in their sport.

The Kildare Ladies County Board, for example, whose team won the intermediate final on Sunday, pay €11,000 a year for the use of Hawkfield, which is Kildare GAA's Centre of Excellence.

It allows the team to train there three nights a week, as well as to play matches, if it is available.

Why should the women's teams have to pay for facilities like this? When is logic going to take over and see the LGFA and the Camogie Association come in under the GAA umbrella and work towards boys and girls being treated in the exact same way at their local GAA club?

The LGFA has been quick to embrace change with technology like the countdown clock.

If the men's game used the countdown clock and the women's game didn't, we would be giving out about how backward the women's game is. Yet, was there much outrage over the seven minutes of added time in the men's All-Ireland final?

The association also negotiated one of the most significant sponsorship deals in the history of women's sport with Lidl's sponsorship, which saw them invest €1.5m in the first year of a three-year deal.

Before last weekend's finals, the LGFA had a #changetherecord tag on social media to encourage more to attend the finals. It worked, as 34,445 turned up.

A level playing field between women playing the sport is important but it also has to be level when stacked against the men's game.

Irish Independent

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