Sunday 21 January 2018

Great divide may force managers to unionise

Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

'MANAGEMENT is about doing things right; leadership is about doing the right things," wrote Peter Drucker, an Austrian-born American business consultant at a time in the last century when those involved in sport – whether on or off the pitch – didn't bother themselves too much with buzz words or corporate-speak.

It's different nowadays, with sport a massive industry, based on sophisticated commercial models. The GAA finds itself in the unusual position of being a crossover between traditional and modern cultures, the former characterised by loyalty to amateurism at one level, the latter represented by the business vision it took to proceed in the early 1990s with the hugely ambitious Croke Park redevelopment at a time when rugby and soccer were waiting for a government lead.

It's inevitable that the two worlds collide occasionally, which brings me back to Drucker's adage. His distinction between management and leadership is interesting in the context of a curious trend that's gathering momentum in the GAA at present.

The growing divide between team managers and administrators is unmistakable. December should be a quiet month in GAA land, but this month has tested the fuse board as the circuits experience higher voltage than what might be expected in the close season.


It started with the publication of the Football Review Committee's proposed rule changes and continued with Central Council's announcement that fewer numbers and more order on the sideline would be regulated for next year.

Meanwhile, all team managers have to formally a sign a document before the end of the month, stating the precise nature of their financial arrangements with county boards and/or other interested parties.

There are other little frictions too. Jim McGuinness might have been winning matches with Donegal all summer, but he didn't escape a barb at the county convention last weekend where the issue of club programme postponements was raised.

The same went for James Horan at the Mayo convention, where it was claimed that county players had been brought in for lengthy debriefs in the week before important club games.

However, it's the national issues which highlight the widening fault line between managers and administrators. Eugene McGee and his FRC committee thought they had covered every base by consulting extensively before formulating their proposed rule amendments. The process included a meeting with county team managers.

Clearly, the latter group are not impressed by the proposals. Already, McGuinness and Mickey Harte have criticised some of them and no doubt others will follow in January when their opinions are sought after games.

One of the great certainties of GAA life is that proposed rule changes in either code are roundly criticised by managers on the grounds that "the game is fine as it stands".

Quite why managers, who, as a breed, appear congenitally wedded to the idea that any proposed rule change is designed with their squad in mind, should be the ultimate arbiters on what's good for the games is difficult to fathom. Still, it's a concept which they vigorously embrace.

As for the new regulations, which will cut from 12 to five the number of officials permitted on the sideline and restrict the area in which the manager can operate, that, too, can expect to be met with open hostility.

New Antrim football manager Frank Dawson has already questioned the change, pointing out that he likes to be in regular contact with his selectors and is against the idea of banning them from the sideline.

It's a fair point, but there's certainly a need to reduce sideline occupancy. Why, for instance, is it necessary to have any county board officer there? As for managers marching up and down the sideline, it's a recipe for friction. A runner is allowed onto the pitch, so why the need for so much managerial mobility?

Managers certainly won't be happy with the new arrangements, which were proposed essentially to reduce the danger of sideline bust-ups.

History shows that the busier the sideline traffic, the more fertile the environment for trouble.

Away from playing rules and match-day regulations, some managers are incensed by a requirement to give written details of their precise arrangements with county boards and to sign a commitment that they are complying with the rules on amateurism.

They feel it's an attack on their integrity and implies that they are all involved in devious practices which, of course, is not the case.

Still, it's another example of the widening gulf between managers and the ruling classes.

It's 12 years since the players coalesced to form the GPA, which is now an integral part of the GAA's administration. Question is – how long before managers come together to form the GMA?

Irish Independent

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