Across all the views of the pro- and the anti- grants camps a strong point of agreement would appear to be that professionalism would be bad, if not ruinous, for the GAA. The consequences of professionalism don't have to be explained: GAA members appear to be well-informed of what they are already. But, what they don't agree on is the proximity and the degree of danger. Those for the grant, but against professionalism, are not worried because, they say, the GAA and its members will never let that happen.
It doesn't matter if Dessie and the GPA see the grant as an interim measure--as just a "battle" in the "war" for professionalism. It doesn't matter if the next generation of GPA members are reared in an Association with diluted ideals and principles regarding payments for players, because, as the logic seems to go, when the GAA is faced with the clear and present danger of professionalism, the members will rise-up to defeat it.
That's why the players can be appeased with with a few bob. The GAA will ultimately decide; they are, afterall in charge, or at least should be. That's why the anti-grants movement can be dismissed with a sneer by Messrs. O'Rourke and Breheny as a bunch of non-sensical anarchists. The GAA should be the only arbitrator of its own affairs and appeals to courts and non-GAA bodies by upstarts should be eradicated.
Yes they should. That's exactly the point the anti-grant group is trying to make!
"Who is running the show?", indeed.
With the grant in place, the answer will not be the GAA, as some, if not most, naively believe.
By introducing the grant the GAA will no longer control its own destiny. It's hands will be tied. Just like UEFA's, just like FIFA's, and just like every other sporting organisation that has been ensarled by the four freedoms of the European Union (free movement of goods, services, labour and capital). It is the European Commission and the European Court of Justice that will now decide the GAA's fate. The precedents are there --Walrave, Donà, Bosman, Deliège (the one GAA members and grant advocates should fear) Kolpak, Meca-Medina etc.-; that's what Of One Belief is desperately trying to point out.
UEFA and FIFA would like to protect football. They would like to be able to regulate their own sport. They would like to tackle the number of foreigner players playing in domestic competitions. They can't. Freedom of movement. They would like to address the competitive imbalance in and between leagues. They can't. EU Competition law. They've been lobbying to get the principle of the "specificity" of sport enshrined in the EU treaties to balance the influence of the EU on the game and regain some control, but have so far failed. And, while the EU has stopped short of treating sport as "just another business" there is no mistaking that it is the forces of the free market that reign supreme in football. While some, like the Premier League, are happy to exploit this to their advantage, not everyone thinks that greed is good.
So while the danger is not yet clear for some, it is present. Don't think that the GAA will be cocooned away from the implications of the EU law. The grant establishes the link with the EU legal framework and all it will take is one disgruntled party from inside our own ranks to exploit it.
And, sadly, we never seem to be short of them.