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GAA kicks for touch on illegal payments issue

GAA director general Paraic Duffy's eagerly awaited report on illegal payments to managers was finally aired at a management committee meeting on Friday night.

But the controversial document, believed to have been amended from its original format, was not discussed or thrashed out any further at Croke Park yesterday morning where 32 county chairmen and secretaries gathered for a previously arranged meeting.

It was suggested that Duffy's recommendations could be aired at this event, but there was no mention of it.

"No there wasn't a sign of that report whatsoever and not a word about it," said one county board secretary.

"The meeting was over before 11.0am; it was actually just a regular summit looking into best practice and performance methods for secretaries and chairmen for the coming year. It had been arranged a long time back."

However, the controversial payments to managers file was top of the agenda at Friday night's management meeting -- almost two years after Duffy was first asked to compile it.

"Everyone is aware of what's been going on so there was nothing really shocking in it," one high-ranking official told the Sunday Independent.

"Despite all the speculation, there were no figures of any kind mentioned, but I suppose it highlighted what we already knew was happening and the urgency that's now needed.

"You'd want to be living on the moon if you didn't know what was going on with regard to managers receiving money these past few years, but it has proved so difficult to police and prove.

"That's why there will be no public comment for the time being until we develop the document further. We need to find solutions quickly."

The report will now be circulated to county board officers. It's likely that a task force will spend the next three months deciding on a course of action. They will report back to central council and GAA management.

"This matter will not go away, trust me, but it's going to take time to flesh out," another top-level source added. "The truth is there's no point in us rolling out this report and document until county boards are finally prepared to police the whole issue themselves. But perhaps the bigger problem lies at club level.

"The whole issue is simply a nightmare to deal with and we now have to decide how we ensure that the whole area is handled properly in the future. It's easy to come up with facile solutions but the bottom line is, do people still want us to be an amateur organisation?

"Dealing with managerial payments at inter-county level is one thing but doing the same at club level is a bigger challenge altogether. We can't do anything until all units are ready to adopt the same approach and that hasn't been the case."

In the past, there has been anecdotal evidence that some managers are earning between €30,000 and €50,000 per annum. This has prompted Duffy to suggest that the introduction of a tiered payment structure in addition to expenses could be the way forward.

Meanwhile, there was no official reaction on the claim in the Irish Independent that illegal payments are costing the GAA up to €15m per annum.

"It's the first time I've heard that figure mentioned," one high-ranking officer said.

"No figure has been disclosed in the report as far as I'm aware, but you could pull any figure out of the sky and attach it to this problem. It all depends on the size of the county, the resources at hand and the worsening state of affairs at club level. It will amount to a significant sum, no doubt about it, but how do you set about proving and controlling this flow of money?

"That's what we'll be using the next few months for. There's no point in rolling the report out until everyone is prepared to regulate managers fees."

Cult of the manager runs out of control, Page 8

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