Opinion Editorial

Wednesday 11 December 2019

Playing the money game

PARAIC Duffy, director general of the Gaelic Athletic Association, has vowed to continue the fight against under-the-counter payments to GAA club and inter-county managers. His views on the question are admirable.

But can he put them into practice? The GAA is one of the last bastions of genuine amateurism. Its commitment goes hand in hand with other features that have helped to make the association such a powerful and benign force: "the honour of the little parish", the emotions the games arouse among both players and spectators, the absence of Armani suits, Ferrari cars and swollen heads.

If we ever lose all this, we will have lost something precious. But can we save it from the incursions of professionalism?

Once upon a time, millions of people thought that rugby, cricket and a host of other sports would always remain amateur. They were wrong. Television, lavish commercial sponsorship . . . these had an effect, but perhaps they only confirmed a trend. And the embrace of professionalism was in one sense welcome, since it put an end to fake "shamateurism".

Shamateurism in the GAA, if it exists as Mr Duffy suspects, is an exceptionally difficult nut to crack. Determined efforts to track payments have come to nothing. But the money is not the central question. Should managers -- and players -- be paid what they are worth, at the cost of part of a great tradition? It would take a modern King Solomon to answer.

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