Stirring a hornets' nest may have sting in the tail
THE first rule of dealing with a wasps' nest is to be damn well ready before you poke a stick in its direction. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail, takes on a whole new meaning -- mostly painful -- in a battle against wasps who harbour a peculiar resentment to being disturbed.
GAA Director General Paraic Duffy knows that, which makes his announcement that Croke Park is to make another attempt to dislodge what it regards as a dangerously big a wasps' nest from its environs a high-stakes game. Stirring a hornets' nest is the obvious phrase that springs to mind.
Is this to be the Obama moment of the new GAA administration, led by Duffy and president Christy Cooney? Or will it be a Bush-Blair re-enactment where war was declared on Iraq on the basis of alleged weapons of mass destruction, only to discover after the invasion that there were no such weapons, by which time it was too late to stop the destruction?
According to Duffy, the GAA has a problem with managers who "are accepting payment in excess of what is permitted under rule to coach teams at club and inter-county level".
The plan is to "establish a committee to examine the current situation with a view to bringing forward proposals in late 2010 that will allow a debate throughout the Association on the best way to deal with this difficult problem".
Given the low-yield return of previous forays into the pursuit of brown envelopes allegedly being pocketed by managers, establishing another committee to examine it looks futile. Why should it be any more successful than its frustrated predecessors?
Croke Park know that, so will their latest committee be given much wider terms of reference, ones which extend to proposing a ban on managers working outside their own club and/or county?
Former GAA president Peter Quinn recently alluded to that as a possible solution to a problem which has greatly exercised the GAA hierarchy for years. Former director-general Liam Mulvihill made regular references to under-the-counter payments as far back as the early 1990s but then, as now, evidence was anecdotal rather than specific. In other words: pure useless.
Duffy's wants proposals and a debate on the shadowy world of manager payments but if that's to be done, should it not widen into a review of the entire amateur area which is governed by a ridiculously vague regulation?
According to rule, GAA members are not allowed to accept "payment in cash or in kind in conjunction with the playing of Gaelic Games".
Doesn't that rule out ads, endorsements, personal appearances, all of which result from playing the games? Actually, it doesn't. It's deemed okay for players to be paid for their extra-curricular activities, which is as it should be. But, why has the old rule been left in place? And if it's to be ignored, how can others be applied to the letter of the law?
As things stand, there is no obvious way of stopping payments to managers, a practice which is far more common at club than county level. After all, the paymasters are GAA officials -- or their silent backers -- who happily fork out in the belief that an outsider can deliver titles.
Duffy clearly believes it's time the GAA donned the protective gear and went after wasps' nests. The trouble is that they probably won't be able to locate any, which, in turn, could lead to reactionary proposals to limit the scope of where managers can work.
Perhaps then, it's time to revisit a suggestion by Mulvihill, who proposed paying team managers all of 12 years ago.
"While I agree that our team managers should remain amateur, there is a strong case to be made for paying county team managers an allowance for all the preparatory work necessary for coaching a team in the modern era. This is already paid to coaches taking coaching courses and I cannot see why it is not authorised for those in charge of county teams," he wrote in his annual report in 1998.
It was a far-reaching idea but got little reaction at Congress. Twelve years on, the area remains as vague, unmanageable and controversial as ever. And guess what? Mulvihill's proposal probably still forms the best basis to proceed. It might be no more than a starting point but wouldn't that do for now?
Going to war should be a last resort, especially when you're not quite sure who, or where, the enemy is.
Paying punters queueing up to shun NHL Div 4
FIGURES released in the GAA's annual accounts show that total gate receipts for Division 4 of last year's Allianz Hurling League was just €985. Four games yielded no gate money, leaving the average at the other 12 games at €82.
The most interesting of all was the Leitrim-Fermanagh game in Carrick-on-Shannon on March 28 where the gate money is shown as €5.
Does that mean that only one spectator turned up? Surely the poor devil should have been let in for free!
Still, whoever he, or she, was got good value as it was a close game which Leitrim won by 0-15 to 1-11.
The other NHL figures were -- Div 3: €7,760; Div 2: €143,955; Div 1: €952,240. NFL -- Div 1: €1.8m (Dublin v Tyrone earned €994,000 on its own); Div 2: €588,723; Div 3: €176,646; Div 4: €70,241.