Friday, December 7, 2007

Latest news on opposing the grant for the GPA

Just to keep you "rumpish malcontents" updated ...a few bits-and-pieces.

God Bless Mayo!
Mayo have now started to lead the way - a 100% County Committee vote against pay-for-play (aka grants/awards/whatever).

They've set a lead.Let's get in behind them!

What Can You Do To Help?

There's a few things you could do to stop pay-for-play:

1. If you know your Central Council delegate, lobby him before Saturday
2. Bring this issue up in your Club
3. Try to get it discussed at your County Convention
4. Talk to people about it: tell them why we think the way we do

Above all, keep your commitment and enthusiasm!

The Future That's Ahead Of Us: An Email From a Limerick Rugby Man
I read Mark Conway's article in the Irish Independent today. He makes some excellent points. I am not what you would consider a GAA man. I go to the Limerick games, but I am a rugby player. What the GAA have done now is what rugby did 10 years ago.

Ten years ago, at twenty years of age, I played in a thriving club scene. Then clubs started paying players. So players migrated to the clubs that paid the better money. To compete, other clubs increased the amount they paid and the circle went on until the clubs went bankrupt and every volunteer a club had stopped working for the club. "Why should I do the club draw/mark the pitches/wash the jerseys/man the bar/coach the team/etc for nothing when so-and-so is getting £50 for playing on a Saturday?"

Club rugby is dead in Ireland. We have an elite of 30 rugby players in Ireland, there are 98 other professionals who fill the gaps. No-one plays club anymore. Clubs who fielded 8 adult teams ten years ago, struggle to field 3 now. There are numerous reasons for this, but one is definitely professionalism. Most clubs are now two clubs within a club - the paid first team and the rest. The rest wonder why they bother.

I played on the first team in three clubs (I moved as I moved cities for work). I was offered pay in all. My parish club in Limerick, whose games I attended since I was old enough to go and watch my dad and for whom my only childhood ambition was to play on the first XV, wanted to pay me for what I loved doing.

I played on a team with my three brothers, for my parish, representing my family and my community. This is the 'place' Mark talks about. This is sport and there is no greater feeling that this - the feeling you belong and that you are wearing a jersey your father wore, that you are only minding it to pass on to the next generation.

My heroes where the guys who played on the first team before me. They coached and supported me now. How could I take pay for play when they didn't? How could I look them in the eye? I couldn't and refused the money.

And whilst we are on sacrifice - I trained six days a week and played two games a week (college and club) - I trained twice a day some days and at least once a day at the time. But it wasn't sacrifice, I loved it. I preferred playing than working in a bar earning pocket money.

If you don't love it, don't do it. Someone else will gladly take your place. If it's money you want, take an extra job. As a first team player (or county player), you are in the most privileged position in your sport. Everyone wants to swap places with you. Everyone wants what you have.

And you are only minding that jersey, hanging onto it as long as you can. Cos a hell of a lot went before you, a hell of a lot more will come after you. It's only the efforts of everyone that has helped put you in that position (starting with your parents and the coaches you had in your club since you started).

I admire the GAA greatly. I'd urge that you don't go down the pay for play route. You have something very special in your organisation.

Keep it.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Someone is Shouting "Stop!" (the grant)

Over 400 Ulster gaels met in The Elk near Toome on Wednesday 5 December.

The meeting was called to see what the views of grass-roots GAA people were following the announcement days earlier of an inter-County GAA pay-per-play package agreed by some people in the GAA; the GPA; the Irish Sports Council; and the Irish Government.

Prior to the meeting email and telephone support had been received from concerned gaels in 28 different Counties across Ireland. Almost thirty different people, GAA men and women from across Ulster spoke from the floor on the night. The consistent threads across the contributions were:

1. The GAA is being presented with pay-for-play, however it's being dressed up
2. The Association's amateur status must be sacrosanct
3. Planned decisions on the proposals at this weekend's meeting of Central Council should be deferred
4. A full consultation on the proposals across all levels and units of the GAA needs to be facilitated.
5. It was also made clear that GAA players are respected for the honourable place and central role they have in the Association: proper player representation needs to be urgently looked at. Similar respect was voiced for the GAA as an organisation; for its structures and systems; and for its President.

At the end of the meeting there was unanimous support for the following resolutions:

1. There must be no change (other than properly mandated via Congress) to the GAA's amateur status as presented in its Rule 11: the current proposals fly in the face of that amateur status and Rule 11
2. The discussion of the current proposals planned for the forthcoming Management and Central Council meetings should be deferred
3. A full and proper discussion of these issues should take place across the GAA

Those present would proceed to use their own Club and County channels to voice their opposition to the current proposals.

Finally, the clear consensus was that should the current proposals be approved before a proper consultation with the membership is carried out, then a further meeting would be called to again gauge opinion.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Confusion over the grants agreement continues

Micky Harte wants us to learn from this sordid experience and "to try to understand each other's position".

If only it were that simple. There's been such a racket made about player welfare and the grants issue that we don't quite know how it became such a divisive issue within the organisation and came to the point of a strike. We're all confused about what has happened. We're just as confused about the deal that has been done.

Cliona Foley, in today's Irish Independent, criticizes the deal, blaming the GAA (nothing new in that) for not diverting its considerable resources towards the players. According to her analysis thanks should go to the government for cleaning up the GAA's mess. If the GAA had "increased player expenses, funded a centralised hardship fund (especially for long-term injured) and employed a 'players' ombudsman' in Croke Park" everything would have been hunky-dory. Such action would have averted this rigmarole and not taken funds from other, more needy, sports.

But, read the GPA's statement, surely you at least did that Cliona?, and the GPA sums up this sorry episode in the following way: "The GPA has campaigned vigorously for over five years for the introduction of state funding for inter-county GAA players in an effort to achieve parity of esteem for these players in the world of Irish sport." Parity of esteem, coequality, consistency - call it what you will - with other sports, that's what the GPA claim to have achieved through this deal. "The inequality that existed within Irish sport needed to be addressed." according to Kieran McGeeney. The GPA felt that the government discriminated against intercounty players with Charlie McCreevey's tax breaks, which they could not take advantage of because of their amateur status, so they felt it was up to the government to make that right. And, in their view, with this deal it has.

That doesn't correspond with Cliona's analysis. It's also not consistent with what has happened.

To get their money from the government the GPA needed the GAA's support. But, alas they didn't have it, the GAA didn't, and still doesn't, recognise the GPA. So to coerce the GAA, and use the power of the organisation as leverage against the government, the GPA kicked up a stink about player welfare and threatened to strike against the very organisation the players claim they love so dearly. On agreeing the deal with the government and the GAA, Dessie Farrell, the GPA Chief Executive, said "The GPA has brought the welfare of players to the top of the priority list and underpinning our drive to improve welfare has been the campaign for state funding".

It was all about player welfare. So, maybe Cliona iss right. But, and it's a big but, if one reads the terms and conditions of the landmark deal, condition number 8, clearly states:

"Player welfare is a separate issue for which the GAA takes full responsibility."

What is going on?

It seems the GPA has played both parties off and in Paul Galvin's words they've "nailed it". Not only have they played a Machiavellian hand - "the ends justifying the means" - but it seems they can continue legitimately lobbying Croke Park for improvements in player welfare.

It is also not clear why the GAA, i.e. Croke Park has acquiesced to this deal. The GAA originally agreed to the grant and then backtracked quickly when it was pointed out that if their fingerprints were found on the notes it would essentially be the same as "pay for play". Nicky Brennan declared "that our amateur status was paramount and non-negotiable, and we are satisfied now that this scheme does not impact on that." However, it seems that the Irish Sports Council (ISC) will not be directly involved in administering the GAA player grants. It will be Croke Park and county boards who will have to distribute the money. So what's the difference now?

It's hard to believe, as both sides would like you to, that deal struck makes all the commotion in the newspaper, on the radio and on the television over the past six months just been a hoo-ha about nothing.

The vague statements made by both sides don't address the fundamental question. How is amateurism protected through the establishment of the principle that inter-county players get renumerated because they are inter-county players? How, as Kieran McGeeney claims, does the grant system "copper-fasten" amateurism?

The grants scheme sets a precedent from which there is no turning back. The scheme will run on a three-year basis. So, now that the country is set to slip into deficit for the first time since 2002, are we going to go through this brinkmanship again in three years time if the money from the government is not forthcoming and the GAA has to pay up?

One thing is clear there has been no consultation with the membership of the GAA. The deal is being rushed through by Croke Park without a proper communication of the detail. There's no understanding of what's going on.

The Hoganstand informs readers that there will be a ’Grassroots’ meeting to discuss opposition to grants at the at the The Elk Entertainment Complex, Toome, Co. Antrim on Wednesday night, December 5. Former Armagh player Barry O’Hagan, who now works as Sports Development Officer for Derry City Council, will chair the meeting , while it’s understood that former GAA president Peter Quinn and former GAA Trustee Jimmy Treacy may also attend. They have a lot to discuss.