In an effort to resolve the long running saga of ‘under the counter payments’ to Managers in some counties – and clubs too –the GAA will discuss the subject in some detail at a meeting with County officials at Croke Park on Saturday.
Today, the Association’s Director General, Páraic Duffy released a detailed ‘discussion paper’ intended to ensure that the GAA-family including fans countrywide are fully aware of the proposals to end such ‘under the counter’ payments. This is an updated version of a document that was first presented to the GAA Management Committee some 14 months ago.
In today’s 29 page document Duffy talks of ‘the important contributions made by Professor Gearóid Ó Tuathaigh who delivered a lecture to NUI Galway Alumni to mark the 125th anniversary of the founding of the GAA. He outlined the challenges facing the Association and identified unregulated payments to managers as posing a particularly serious threat to the reputation and future health of the GAA. He made a compelling case on the need for the Association to address this issue in a direct and transparent manner; he subsequently developed these arguments in discussions and correspondence. And it is acknowledged that Professor Ó Tuathaigh’s reflections have significantly influenced this paper”.
The Director General calls for an “open, frank and honest debate” before any final proposals can be brought forward agreeing at the same time that “The growing prominence of managers and management teams and the fees/expenses to which they have access create a clear conflict for the GAA in the context of its core values of amateurism and volunteerism”
“The GAA takes pride in presenting itself as the greatest amateur sporting organisation in the world, yet it is the case that GAA members who have
full-time jobs and who should not, therefore, be paid for what they do in the GAA are being paid”.
“This issue has come to represent the essential debate about the Association’s amateur ethos – there is no other issue facing the Association that brings into such sharp focus the disparity between what we preach and what we practice.
“And it should be noted that the issue is not confined to county teams: many club team managers who are in full-time employment are also receiving financial rewards.
“That said, it needs to be firmly stated and understood that only some managers are being paid. The GAA can state categorically that many county team and club team managers are not being rewarded financially (beyond, that is, the legitimate expenses they receive for carrying out their functions).”
So what do the GAA propose : today’s paper puts forward three options two of which are ‘to implement fully the Association’s existing policy, rules and guidelines on our amateur status’, or ‘to introduce a system of regulated payments to senior inter county managers’.
Understandably it is not felt that option one – continuing with the current ‘rule-breaking’ policy – is sensible as that would only amount to what is happening now ie: that in some quarters , the Association’s rules ‘will continue to be flagrantly breached’.
The second option – to crack down on the payments – is much more complex and would involve the setting up of a Registration and Audit Board by Croke Park which would oversee ‘the
implementation of all aspects of the payment of fees and expenses to inter county team managers and management teams’.
That will inevitably involve the county boards and clubs having to considerably tighten up internal accounting procedures, which of course should be happening anyway.,as such would clearly interest the tax and other revenue authorities (as well as GAA HQ).
Duffy splits the third option, – a system of regulated payments, into models: a welfare-based model, an expenses model, a provision of services model or a fourth suggestion that the County Board/Provincial Council/Croke Park becomes a formal employer of the team manager.
“Ireland finds itself in a deeply serious financial and economic situation. At best, it will take several years before the country returns to financial good health; at worst, the country could undergo many, many years of reduced economic activity, causing acute financial difficulties for individuals and organisations alike. The GAA has not escaped the consequences of the country’s financial and economic misfortune. Already, some County Boards and clubs find themselves in financial difficulties on account of investments they made in the boom years on what were undoubtedly good projects, but which have produced repayment levels on borrowings that they are struggling to meet.
But it is not just debts arising from investments in infrastructure that have caused worrying levels of debt; it is incontestably the case that the large, unregulated payments made by some counties and clubs to managers and others have also contributed to the debt levels of these units. In the current economic climate, it is reckless for counties and clubs to burden themselves with such excessive payments.
He goes on to stress that : “The funding available to counties and clubs from Croke Park is bound to decrease in the coming years; excessive payments to managers will become even more wasteful, unsustainable and irresponsible than they have been up to now. The money spent on such payments needs to be redirected – and this relates specifically to clubs – to help achieve the important objective of developing coaches and managers within the club. A wide-ranging system within clubs for the nurturing of internal coaches and managers would make clubs self-sufficient in this regard.
“While reports of the sums currently being paid to managers and members of management teams are probably exaggerated”, he goes on, “ it is no doubt the case that substantial sums are being paid out by County Boards and clubs. The adoption of either of the schemes outlined in Options 2 and 3, along with the cessation of payments to club-team managers, would achieve a substantial reduction in the monies currently being paid out by County Boards and clubs.
While the integrity of the Association’s rules and ethos is the primary consideration in undertaking this necessary and overdue reform, self-interest and a modicum of financial competence should also convince those involved in unregulated payments that the days of such financial largesse are long gone”.
There are however no easy solutions to this problem and Saturday’s meeting will seek to establish exactly what the County official have to say and contribute. The weeks and months ahead will lead to lively debate throughout the country but today’s document is an excellent starting point for it is clear that many in the Association who are not directly involved in the running of the organisation do not fully appreciate and understand up to now what exactly the GAA HQ has been discussing and is proposing.
Now that the Association’s members have a clearer understanding of all of the issues facing the Association let us sincerely hope that all counties face up to the huge challenges facing the GAA and put forward their own counties views on these thorny subjects, on Saturday.
It is difficult not to agree with Paraic Duffy’s final analysis :
“The choice facing the Association in this respect is a very simple one: either we do nothing about a practice we dislike so much and continue to wring our hands and piously mutter our disapproval in the certain knowledge that nothing will change and that in five or ten years we will still be lamenting the damage to our ethos and values; or we decide that it would be defeatist and hypocritical not to confront directly a practice that those who care about the GAA know to be a blemish on the Association.
“We have it in our hands to solve this problem if we wish to do so. This is the challenge to all of us: to do something rather than do nothing, and to make an honest attempt to be true to the ideals of the Gaelic Athletic Association.”
What are YOUR views on this subject? Are you a GAA official, player or supporter, whether at home or abroad ? Let us have your views
You can read the full 29 page document here DOCUMENT