Saturday 20 October 2018

Pay proposal for players and managers ill-advised but other ideas from 2034 Committee have merit

'New DG Tom Ryan said last that it wasn’t policy to publish all reports so we can take it that this particular one is destined for a very high shelf.'
'New DG Tom Ryan said last that it wasn’t policy to publish all reports so we can take it that this particular one is destined for a very high shelf.'
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Perhaps it's due to the recommendations that inter-county players and managers be paid, or maybe there's unease over the proposal for a radical overhaul of the GAA's administrative systems, or is it simply a case of bad timing?

Whatever the reason, it's most unlikely that a report on how the GAA should look on its 150th anniversary in 2034 will ever be officially published.

It's out there, of course, all 42 pages and 18,000 words, under the title 'Towards 2034 - the 150th anniversary of the GAA'.

Commissioned by Aogán ó Fearghail during his presidential term, the report of the 12-strong committee was finalised in January.

They expected it to be published before ó Fearghail term ended in late February, but it wasn't . And, with different regimes now in both the president's and director-general's offices, other priorities have risen to the top of the agenda.

New DG Tom Ryan said last week that it wasn't policy to publish all reports so we can take it that this particular one is destined for a very high shelf.

Since paying inter-county players and managers was its highest-profile suggestion, it's not surprising that Croke Park had reservations about bringing it to a wide audience, lest it be interpreted as even a slight shift in emphasis.

So what did 'Towards 150' say on that, and other key issues? And how realistic were their proposals?

PAY PLAYERS AND MANAGERS

 While stressing that amateur status remains a core value, the report recommended that by 2034, senior inter-county players and managers be paid "an agreed allowance" which would reflect "their enormous contribution to their sport".

No payments would be made to players or managers at club level. Only a club member would be allowed to manage/coach in his own club.

GOOD OR BAD IDEAS? Slowing the march towards a form professionalism will not be easy but, if pay-for-play is to happen, it needs to be tightly controlled.

The committee referred to an 'agreed allowance' rather than payments, but they are actually the same thing.

There's also the question of the sums involved. Would every inter-county player and manager receive the same amount or would it be tiered, depending on how long a team remained in the championship?

Would such 'allowances' draw the attention of the Revenue Commissioners, in which case State coffers would benefit as much as players and managers?

The committee offered no costings, which is unfortunate. Obviously, they could not form estimates for 2034, but it would have been helpful if they ran an exercise based on today's game.

Instead, they simply advocated an 'allowance' model, which is too vague in an area where detail is crucial.

Suggestions that the GAA might consider moving away from its strict amateur code aren't new.

Twenty years ago, the then director-general Liam Mulvihill wrote that inter-county managers should be paid an allowance "for all the preparatory work necessary for coaching a county in the modern era".

It was a controversial intervention, which at least merited discussion at Congress. Instead, the 300-plus delegates totally ignored it.

CROKE PARK GOVERNANCE

The 2034 group recommended scrapping the GAA's Management Committee and Central Council, replacing them with an 18-strong Board of Directors, made up of elected and appointed members.

GOOD OR BAD IDEA? It has a lot of merit. The Committee contended that there is unnecessary duplication between Management and Central Council, with the latter often operating as no more than a rubber-stamping group.

It's a fair analysis. How often does Central Council reject a Management Committee proposal? How often does it initiate ideas of its own?

How many Central Council delegates seek a mandate on an issue before reaching a decision or even report back to their county boards? It's a cosy club, no longer fit for purpose.

The Committee recommended that all Congress delegates should be in senior positions within their counties but does not question the size of delegations, which is a pity.

The most important matters in the State are decided by 158 Dáil deputies, but it takes 278 Congress delegates to decide on a trivial rule change. Bizarre.

SCRAP PROVINCIAL COUNCILS

 The 2034 Committee wanted them replaced with regional councils to be decided by population size and geographical issues.

GOOD OR BAD IDEA? There's a clear logic behind it. But then, there there's no logic whatsoever in the current set-up where four provinces with varying numbers of counties have one council each.

Leinster have more than 50 per cent of the population, yet is controlled by one council, while three others take care of the rest of the country. That's bad governance.

GAMES AND COMPETITIONS

The Committee recommended 'separate and distinct' seasons for inter-county and club championships to provide a more satisfactory games schedule for all players.

They also favoured scrapping the provincial championships and introducing a tiered All-Ireland structure in football.

GOOD OR BAD IDEAS? Separating club and county seasons looks good in theory but it would come at a huge promotional cost to the GAA.

The inter-county game is the shop-window product, so squeezing it even tighter than is currently the case would be a serious negative for the GAA and a promotional godsend for other sporting organisations.

Besides, there's no good reason why a more streamlined fixtures' structure, catering for club and county, cannot be devised without totally separating their time-frames.

As for a tiered All-Ireland system, it comes with several plus points, but it could be achieved without scrapping the provincial championships which, despite their blatant inequalities, still hold a special place in public - and indeed player - affections.

FACILITIES

One major stadium per regional council area, plus one ground, capable of holding 15,000 spectators, per county were the Committee's recommendations.

That would make for better facilities at all levels at a time when spectator comfort is becoming increasingly important.

GOOD OR BAD IDEA? Good. How does it make sense for Cork, Kerry, Tipperary and Limerick to have grounds capable of holding over 40,000 each when there are years when some of them don't have their capacity tested even once?

Given Cork's power and influence within the GAA, Páirc Uí Chaoimh was always going to be redeveloped, but it's very difficult to make a practical case as to why €100 million should be spent on it.

Ego and county pride have always played an unhealthy role in stadium development policy and that won't change any time soon.

PLAYER WELFARE

 The recommendations include evidence-based game-to-training models, reduction in excessive training regimes, and harmonisation of competitions so that younger players have demands reduced. They also advocated 'a meaningful competitive pathway' for all club players.

GOOD OR BAD IDEAS? Obviously, it's the right way to go, but then everyone knows that so it should be on the agenda for 2019 rather than 2034.

Don't bank on it happening, either next year or 16 years hence.

 

The members of the 2034 Committee were:

John CARR (Donegal), chairman A former National School Principal and former secretary of the Irish National Teachers' Organisation.

KEVIN GRIFFIN (Mayo) secretary Director of Registry at UCD, he previously served as secretary of the Football Review Committee.

GER AHERNE (Cork) A retired Brigadier General with the Defence Forces, he captained Cork minor footballers to All-Ireland success in 1972.

JOE CARTHY (Wexford) Principal of the College of Science/Dean of Science in UCD, where is also GAA club secretary.

SEAN DUNNION (Donegal) Donegal County Board chairman 2012-2017.

DAVID HASSAN (Derry) Associate Dean of the Faculty of Life and Health Sciences and Professor of Sport Management at Ulster University.

SINéAD McNULTY (Dublin) Head of Sport at Dublin Institute of Technology.

GENE MEHIGAN (Cork) Principal Lecturer and Director of Teaching and Learning at Marino Institute, Dublin.

LARRY McCARTHY (Cork) Professor at the Stillman School of Business at Sefton Hell University, New Jersey, he has been involved with New York GAA for many years and was elected GAA trustee at this year's Congress.

MARY O'CONNOR (Cork) Director of Development with the Camogie Association, she holds 12 All-Ireland medals in camogie and ladies' football.

JOHN PRENTY (Mayo) Connacht Council secretary since the mid-1990s.

DAVE SHANNON (Wicklow) Former Managing Director of Toyota Ireland.

Irish Independent

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