Sunday 18 February 2018

Colm O'Rourke: Rich pickings for club managers who work the markets

Colm O'Rourke

Colm O'Rourke

It's Trump time, which means an era of uncontrolled capitalism. The great comb over could have learned about it all by studying the GAA at this time of year as hundreds of clubs decide they need a new manager. The old one who did it for nothing has to be replaced and the new boss has to be from outside and if he costs a packet then all the better.

Once the process is put in motion, it is important to point out that there are two committees involved: the official one as elected by the executive committee of the club and the unofficial one which will really decide who gets the job, as they may have somebody on board who can provide the dollars.

Ten years ago there were plenty of fairy godmothers to fund the clubs they loved, but many of them went bust and pay rates dropped. Home grown managers were back in fashion. Now it appears that there is a bit more money around and clubs are looking outside again in bigger numbers.

Some clubs actually advertise for a manager. They are the ones who are really desperate as no self respecting manager with ambition would ever apply for a job. They let it be known on the grapevine that they are interested and the trick then is to convince several clubs that they need to be spoken to quickly before somebody else steps in. The really good managers keep a few clubs waiting so they can play one off the other, selling is the name of the game and the more potential buyers you have the better.

The Donald would certainly approve of a situation where one man could keep hundreds waiting patiently as he discussed terms.

Of course nobody gets paid in these deals, as per the official guide of the GAA. Some may get expenses which will vary enormously from place to place. It is a bit like a GAA official who I met at a coaching course one time. He showed me his mileage docket which had several hundred miles on it, even though 50 would have covered him from his home and back. His answer was that he was going home by Galway for a bit of sight seeing. So there are different ways to skin the cat.

A successful club manager can command a fat fee, I mean expenses' rate. They are like the three wise men who were warned by an angel not to go home the same way as they came, for fear of being killed. Some team managers copy the three wise men, they go home by a different route every night and it can add colossal distance to a journey. A whole tank of petrol could disappear on such a long road.

By Christmas the market for managers will be closing. Anybody on the look out after that is picking up the scrapings of the pot. The bigger clubs have had their go and the merry-go-round then turns to all others in intermediate and junior ranks.

Naturally there are many young GAA enthusiasts who like to be involved with a team and will take on a junior team for self promotion and because they may have some connection to a club. They want to test themselves, especially if they are young, and money is not a factor for them at all.

Then there is another group who are on the circuit. They could not do it if they did not love football, but there are other considerations, shall we say. The very best practitioner of this group that I ever heard of was a manager who took on the task of training two clubs in neighbouring counties. They played each other regularly in challenge matches, so guaranteeing himself payment from both for the same match. Nice work if you can get it.

It would be grossly unfair to place all outside managers of clubs in the same category. Most who take on an outside job get buttons, even though the story from the chattering classes within clubs will always double or treble what is actually handed over.

If someone is getting €30 or €40 a night for managing a team then they are not going to make a fortune from it. If they are travelling as well, then it is really only expenses. There are plenty of stories, though, of managers who get over €100 per session. The temptation straightaway in such an arrangement is for the manager to have plenty of sessions in order to maximise his earnings.

There is something not quite right in such a scene, players sometimes having to pay a set amount per night to train and older members selling lottery tickets in order to fund an outside manager. Strangely enough, the place where excessive payments seem most common is in Ulster, who peddle the amateur ethos most loudly in public but behave quite differently in private. No inquiry will ever uncover payments either, a code of omerta applies. Anyone squealing would have their tongue cut out.

Outside managers do work. If a club is riven with internal dissent and where all the local candidates have failed, it can be a very good thing to bring in an outsider. A different voice is useful at times and new ideas and different training methods can motivate and sustain interest.

In this regard, though, I am a bit of a bogman and prefer to stick close to home. The rewards are great in terms of pure satisfaction if, like this year, your team can win the championship. The downside in the capitalist world, which is never a downside at all, is that there are no payments and no expenses, although in an earlier coming at club level I was promised a new club jacket if I stayed on for another year. How could anyone resist such an offer?

Anyway, I am a bit old fashioned. Your club is your club is your club. You may move house and throw in your lot with a new club, but there must be something which ties you to a place. Most clubs stick with one of their own and the record of home grown managers both at club and county level is far better than imports. Yet far away hills often look greener.

Anyway, the market is open for business. On Wall Street it is hogs and wheat and pork and all sorts of commodities. That same market determines the price on a daily basis. The GAA managers' market takes place between now and the beginning of next year. The Donald would ask 'what's the problem?' He would see it as capitalism in operation and operating efficiently too. The best go to the highest bidder, the rest take whatever is left over.

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