Thursday, March 27, 2008

GAA & Grants: Who Was Right and Who Was Wrong?

The latest update from Of One Belief rightly draws attention to the utter incompetence Croke Park has demonstrated throughout this sorry affair. [My emphasis in bold].

"Now everybody knows why those promoting player grants/awards/whatever ran scared of the DRA - they knew that what they had attempted to foist on the GAA back on 8 December hadn’t a legal, let alone an ethical leg to stand on. The panicky mantra this time around about compliance with EU law shows just how close to disaster the GAA had been brought last November/December. Serious questions have to be asked about the levels of competence shown right the way through here. And those questions remain about the latest offering to an increasingly sceptical GAA membership.

If there was any doubt that "Of One Belief" and those of like mind got it exactly right late last year and Central Council got it frighteningly wrong, then the frankly embarrassing expenses denouement of 17/18 March spells it out loud and clear. Last December we were told we were scare-mongering, that we were dinosaurs/backwoodsmen/The Taliban, that all the bases had been covered, that the amateur status was "copper-fastened" by the deal. Now the "copper-fastening" scheme is in the bin (a bin we’re confident is firmly copper-fastened!) and we’re presented with a whole new scheme and a whole new language. The last batch of very nervous assurances turned out to be as worthless as the grants they applied to.

In one of Irish sport’s great ongoing turnarounds, the cash-for-elite-GAA-players terminology has been changed yet again. We’ve so far waded our way from "grants" through "awards" to "eligible expenses" (can the term "dig-out" now be all that far away?) But the outcome remains tellingly the same: inter-County GAA players will be given sizeable amounts of cash simply because they’re inter-County GAA players. That’s the one sad, unchanging fact in all of this mess.

As the morass deepens we’ve been told by our President ("Off The Ball", Newstalk, 18 March) that inter-County players, having had their GAA mileage rates already paid by their County Boards (at 50 cents a mile), can apply to have their rates topped up to Civil Service levels (at ?1.27 a mile). It’s simply unbelievable.

In one of the GAA’s most ironic twists ever, we now have the GPA -which originally rightly railed at the fact that some elite GAA officials got better mileage rates than elite GAA players - endorsing exactly the same sort of grubby discrimination they said they came forward to oppose. Principle . where are you! But then maybe part of the GPA’s well-versed "plight-of-the-inter-County-player" is being cursed with cars that are, just as a fact of life, much more expensive to run than those driven by anybody else involved in the GAA. Maybe, to steal a phrase from another person; another time; and another place, the rest of us want to try it sometime!

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