Sunday 22 April 2018

Bookies banned as sponsors while CPA tensions resurface

Connacht Council chairman Michael Rock proposed the motion. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Connacht Council chairman Michael Rock proposed the motion. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Dermot Ccrowe

Betting companies will no longer be allowed sponsor GAA competitions, teams, playing gear or facilities, after a landmark ruling by Congress yesterday. An overwhelming 93 per cent of delegates supported a motion from Central Council to introduce an immediate ban arising from concerns over increasing levels of gambling addiction.

Proposing the motion, Connacht Council chairman Michael Rock admitted that existing sponsorship of GAA teams by betting companies was very limited but warned that it could expand if the GAA failed to act. No inter-county team has a betting company as its main sponsor, although Crossmaglen is one high-profile club that has retained a betting firm as its primary financial backer for the last 10 years.

"The rationale behind the motion is straightforward," Rock told delegates. "Gambling is now endemic in all sport. No match preview it seems is complete without a reference to the betting odds as if this was an intrinsic part of the match-day experience. We are aware of high-profile examples of players succumbing to gambling addiction."

Last year Congress voted in favour of a motion that made it a breach of GAA rules for players and officials to vote on a game in which their team is involved. That received almost unanimous support.

The GPA representative Alan Kerins said that more than 50 per cent of players who contacted the players' body for help did so because of gambling. He said that around 100 players had sought their assistance to deal with gambling issues.

Tensions between the Club Players' Association (CPA) and the GAA resurfaced during a sparky debate over a motion concerning voting transparency. The motion, proposed by Liam Griffin, who is closely aligned to the CPA, asked that Congress voting be recorded. It was heavily defeated, gaining only 25 per cent support.

"It is the GAA being mature and responsible," Griffin said, proposing the motion. But Tracey Kennedy of Cork responded strongly in saying she found the motion "a little disturbing" and added that Cork were firmly opposed.

"The sentiment behind this motion seems to say there is something fundamentally wrong at the heart of the Association," she stated. "If that is case it must be resolved by clubs themselves and not by Congress."

Europe delegate Tony Bass upped the heat when saying everyone knew what was behind the motion, referring to the CPA. "This is a trojan horse for a group. We know what is behind this."

He spoke of the motion potentially leading to "witch-hunts" and asked delegates to oppose it. Griffin reacted strongly to those accusations. "What is wrong with transparency?" he asked. "Why are we afraid of being honest? You have more to gain by being honest. There are no trojan horses but you are about to create one."

Seamus Hickey, chairman of the GPA, also supported this motion, describing it as progressive and good for transparency and accountability.

The widespread use of outside managers inspired a Clare motion proposing that only paid-up club members would be eligible for those roles. But it was heavily defeated, gaining only 15 per cent support. Shannon club Wolfe Tones, who brought the motion, claimed it was losing coaching and management talent to other clubs "probably for financial gain" and the motion was an attempt to arrest that trend.

Speaking against the motion, Armagh's Seán Reavey asked if Slaughtneil would be as successful as they have been had Mickey Moran not been allowed in as their (outside) coach. Páraic Duffy, while expressing sympathy for the position, said there might be issues relating to the wording of the motion and clubs would find ways around the rule if implemented. "It is about trying to change a culture and I am not sure this motion would solve the problem," he said.

A Tipperary motion asked for better definition of the word 'melee' contained in the rulebook and suggested that it be quantified it as a minimum of five players. "As we hate to have Tipperary confused, we support the motion," said Cork secretary Frank Murphy, to much laughter. But not enough did and it was lost, with many fearing that it might create more confusion than clarity, getting just 31 per cent of the vote.

Congress also agreed to introduce an under 20 hurling championship in line with its football counterpart.

Earlier, in a dramatic vote for the positions of GAA trustees, John Costigan of Tipperary and New York's Larry McCarthy won on the third count. McCarthy, a native of Cork, is the first overseas holder of the position. After the second round of voting, Martin McAviney lost out on lots when he was tied on the same votes as Declan Flanagan, their scoring identical in the first round also.

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