Longford Leader columnist Mattie Fox: GAA must rekindle original ethos and put clubs to forefront of agenda

The promised land: Croke Park is expected to swell with more than 60,000 fans this Sunday. Picture: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

The GAA proclaims that it represents clubs, and that the ordinary member of the GAA is a sacrosanct and inclusive component of its aims.

That indeed, is the aegis under which the GAA was first set up, and for many years it did indeed represent the clubs, and the ordinary members (volunteers) were highly valued, and listened to, and protected.That, regrettably, is no longer the case.

The GAA is now run essentially as a commercial body whilst still claiming that it is the GAA of old. It’s sad to say this, but the day of listening to clubs has been - either by intent or default - eroded beyond the point of being fit for use. The GAA to all intents and purposes is a freewheeling, yet controlling organisation which has outgrown the cosy consensus of being a clubs organisation. That is gone. For the moment anyway.

The clubs now kowtow to whatever the GAA decides and for anyone who harks back to the past for a moment, it must seem like another world that has grown out of the initial meanings and intentions of the GAA. We now have paid officers and full time coaching personnel all over the country.

Nothing wrong with that, there’s no way that the organisation could now be run without officers or coaches being paid properly. But it has created an anomaly.

When money enters the equation, everyone who is on the receiving end of compensation is almost inevitably compromised. That’s to be expected.

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Take the four provincial councils - the secretary receives pensionable compensation based on civil service rates.
Several county boards also have paid secretaries or CEOs. How can anyone receiving remuneration possibly be objective when judging the pros and cons of perhaps having a new league system instead of the current - long past its sell by date - championship? It’s only natural.

Given the politics that now governs the GAA, that means a cohort of the most powerful and influential people are probably, one would naturally expect, inclined to be supporting Croke Park. All secretaries started as good voluntary GAA people, but are now mostly professional administrators, blurring the vision of the original GAA ethos.

The recent motion, passed by Roscommon County Board, calls on the Fixtures Review Task Force to allow the clubs of Ireland to see the task force’s proposals before making any decision to mandate their Central Council delegates and before any decision is made and ratified.

The motion was tendered by the Kilmore club, and Club Players Association (CPA) member Tommy Kenoy. This is a serious motion, as Kenoy was the man who played a leading role in the change to rule 42, which opened the door to other sports to be played in Croke Park.

Kenoy’s motion, which will be sent to director-general of the GAA Tom Ryan, reads “that the recommendations of the Fixtures Review Task Force are issued to all county boards by the director-general for consideration by the clubs in advance of being brought before Central Council”.

It remains to be seen how that motion will fare.

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