Saturday, October 6, 2007

GAA and the money game

The GPA, Greedy Players Association, reminded us again this week (Farrell admits strike action is being considered,, 4 October) that strike action is being considered and that feelings are running high within the organisation. Donal Og Cusack, Chairman of the GPA, outlined why (Patience wearing Thin) in a self-serving whinge that should rankle with every genuine GAA fan.

In the piece, Cusack bemoans the lack of progress on the issue of compensation for players and whines against the injustices inflicted on our inter-county stars. He believes GAA players are the "laughing stock of the sporting world" and are not respected by the GAA. His attitude and tone reflect the self-interest of the organisation, showing no consideration whatsoever for the repercussions these measures could have for the future of our traditional games.

But, these arguments aren't new. This is old ground which will no doubt be turned over again and again until the Greedy Players get their way. In response I've dug out a more thoughtful perspective from the letters to the Editor of the Irish Times, in August 2005, which responds to Cusack's gripes.

Madam - ...

"Any proposed change of GAA policy should surely pass two basic tests: Will it help or hinder the long-term survival of our indigenous games? Will it help or hinder the survival of the GAA as a community-based organisation?

Arguments for monetary player compensation-an entirely separate issue from player welfare- fail both tests. Firstly, to simply survive in the face of the media-driven and sponsor-driven saturation promotion of international sports, Gaelic games at club and community "seed-bed" level need every euro the GAA can afford for coaching, promotion and development. GAA revenues really do get redistributed the the grass-roots-no fat cats get a cut. [my comments - but not if the Greedy Players get their way!]

Secondly, and more fundamentally, paying inter-county players would subvert the values and motives that make the GAA work so uniquely at community level. Parish, community and club allegiances are the very heartbeat of the GAA. They would be the first casualties of any monetary compensation regime. Why? Because human nature in any quasi-business regime is very predictable.

Over time, more and more players will change allegiance to follow the best-paying options (probably determined by the deepest sponsor pockets)...

As players begin to change their clubs and counties, the irreplaceable community heartbeat of the GAA will weaken progressively, and resuscitation will not be an option...

What about the "excessive demands" on players' time? The number of games for top players is not the problem - it's the new-era of training regimes. If the GPA and Croke Park make common cause, they can find a way to curtail the vicious circles of excessive training regimes for inter-county players and restoring a better balance between the club and county activity. [my comments - the GPA hasn't shown the slightest interest in this. Why? Player welfare is not their objective, player compensation is.] Real player welfare can be ensured by restructuring and regulation but monetary compensation is never a valid alternative, even from a thinking player's perspective.

Former Derry star Joe Brolly has forcefully made the often overlooked point that "it is the county players who get the most out of the games - the status, the excitement, the glory, the spin-offs". They do serve an important "shop-window" purpose for the games but the requirements of its shop-window should always be secondary to the objectives of an organisation.

The compensation lobby should be faced down with the basic question: where lies the greater long-term good - for the games, for the players of the future and for Irish community life?

Yours, etc, Joe Tuohy

I'm with Joe on this one.

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