Friday 15 December 2017

Survey confirms wall of silence blocking Duffy crusade

Director general's war on illegal payments appears unwinnable, writes Dermot Crowe

A short time from now the GAA director general Paraic Duffy will be shining his torch on a thriving black market of illegal payments to managers, the notorious Mammon which to the most prescient or paranoid represents the gravest threat to the future of the GAA.

It is not that long since a man well versed in financial parlance and machinations, Peter Quinn -- considered a GAA conservative -- declared his attempts to find evidence of illicit payments fruitless: there was no trail, no footprints, no jabbering Deep Throat.

Quinn's catchy line about not only finding under-the-table payments elusive but even the table itself was the sound bite that carried an inherent message of surrender. Tacit in his admission was a flat rebuttal by county officers and managers. At club and county level there was then, as now, unlimited informal testimony of covert payments, and the blur of coaches moving from club to club and county to county underpinned those stories and suspicions.

The people Quinn's committee talked to perpetuated the lie and while the former president looks to have accepted, however reluctantly, his failure to make any inroads, Duffy is determined to find a way of ending the practice.

As we await his observations, the results of a Sunday Independent survey starkly reveal that mendacity remains commonplace, with not a single manager questioned admitting to receiving in excess of the legitimate rate of expenses for doing the job. Do you really believe that to be the case? Do the managers reading the results really believe that to be the case?

It exists for two reasons. Management can be a lucrative option and there is a clear demand for expertise among players and officers of clubs and county boards, with an acknowledgement in most instances that there will be a price to pay. This seems a reasonably comfy arrangement but Duffy, as can be gleaned from various ascribed comments on the subject, has a more jaundiced view.

One story claims that a recent inter-county appointee asked another about the "going rate" and was told that €80,000 might be deemed reasonable. But the payments, in Duffy's mind, are corrupt irrespective of by how much they exceed the official rates.

In late August we revealed two possible avenues Duffy may pursue. One would be to compel county secretaries and chairmen to sign affidavits swearing that their managers are not being paid unauthorised monies. This would hardly be well received, however, particularly with most county secretaries now occupying full-time positions. The other proposal being mooted is to make the management positions full-time, but this would have implications for travel expenses and therefore make the roles less attractive financially. Duffy will need to be original and highly imaginative.

In his favour, though, is a climate of recession and greater need for financial prudence. Ultimately, many GAA officials would probably welcome a more controlled and transparent environment.

That most managers expressed the view that The Sunday Game influences disciplinary decisions is not that surprising given their vested interest and the high stakes involved. They have an unfavourable impression of media scrutiny of any hue and a shared tendency to avoid the nub of the problem: that the player in breach of rule may be the scourge.

If The Sunday Game influences a decision then it is no different in essence to newspapers and media generally. There is also the possibility, one assumes, that The Sunday Game can also benefit a player in trouble where a mistake is missed by the match officials. Presumably an outcry from managers in this instance is less likely. But why?

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