Friday, April 11, 2008

The grant that never was is approved

The "grants" rigmarole finally come to a close yesterday when the GAA Annual Congress rubber stamped the deal. 

As Peter Quinn said on TV a few weeks ago, the decision-making machinery of the GAA Congress replicates that of the National Congress of the Communist Party of China -- the important decisions are decided before the meeting, so the outcome was no great surprise. Also like the GAA the Chinese also use the occasion to decide leadership changes; review and change, if necessary, the Party's Constitution; and select the Central Council, a powerful decision making body, the authority of which, according to its spokesperson Danny "Sum Ting Wong?" Lynch, should never be questioned. 

Trying to get an accurate account in the GAA annals of how this decision was brought about is going to be very difficult because of the Rashomon effect. Rashomon is a Japanese film which has become "a byword for any situation in which the truth of an event is difficult to verify due to the conflicting accounts of different witnesses". We've seen this time and time again during this debate with many blinkered views [Martin Breheny wins the overall prize for his perverse and twisted interpretation] of what was happening.

In general there are two versions of how the GAA bungled from "grants" to "eligible expenses":

The hey presto, Nicky Brennan, Croke Park and GPA version, which would have you  believe that they knew what they were doing all along-- that it was "rubbish" and "farcical" to argue that the grant was a threat to the GAA's amateur status -- despite the radically rehashed deal emerging from the depths of the GAA's "open and transparent" hierarchy. "Didn't we tell you all along that we wouldn't sign up to any deal with the GPA that would harm the GAA's amateur status?" Then why are all the poor journalists so confused that they still refer to it as a grant?

The other is Joe Brolly's analysis, subsequently endorsed by the DRA:

1. GAA announces grants deal with GPA
2. Of One Belief launch legal challenge to grants/pay for play warning of dangers of EU law
3. GAA retain Alex Schuster, law lecturer at Trinity College and recognized authority on European community law, who  clearly advised them that grants would mean the players were involved in economic activity, which would mean that community law applied 
4. GAA buys time at DRA through technicalities and unavailability of key witnesses
5. GAA junks the original "Grants" scheme and develops the elaborate, complicated, wholly incomprehensible bureaucratic nightmare that is the "eligible expenses" scheme.

Despite the calls that it's time to move on the amateur, shamateur, professional debate is not going to go away. 

Thursday, April 10, 2008

RTÉ.ie is to Stream GAA Congress Live Around the World

The emergence of broadband internet and mobile devices as a means for fans to view sports content both live and on demand is radically transforming the media landscape. Although it's fanciful to think that the GAA would at be the forefront of embracing this digital revolution, they are at least getting in on the act with RTÉ.ie set to stream this year’s GAA Annual Congress live around the world on this Saturday April 12th.

Now, while the content may not be too exciting, it's a start at least and means that GAA supporters from Brisbane to Berlin won’t miss any of the key decisions made, including the election of a new president to take over from Nickey Brennan in April 2009. I hope this is a success and that the GAA realizes that it would be worthwhile for them to stream GAA live overseas for the many, many emigrants who would like to watch their counties play but don't have an option to see the game live, or have to pay $20 dollars into a grubby Irish pub at 6 a.m. to see the game. The higlights of National League Games shown on RTÉ.ie are great for those of us living abroad. Why can't it be extended so that those overseas can pay to watch games live?

It also seems that quite a lot of GAA members closer to home could do with keeping an eye on proceedings because GAA democracy is not functioning as it should. According to Nicky Brennan, the motion in favour of teams in Division 4 of the National Football League making a return to the All-Ireland qualifiers (from Wicklow to be debated this weekend) was passed by a previous Congress without many people realizing it was passed or the reasons for doing so. What does that tell us about decision-making in the GAA?

This year’s Congress takes place in the Radisson Hotel in Sligo and RTÉ.ie will be streaming day 2 live from 10am to 4.30pm. The full details are availabe on RTÉ should you wish to tune in.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

GAA messing with fixture schedules for TV

GAA 2008: Kerry Cork postponement a sign of the times
My fear when the GAA announced the recent TV deals was that the TV companies would start dictating the throw-in times to the GAA and that this would have serious consequences on attendances at club matches.

But, to see the GAA itself altering fixtures in this manner is far worse. They are completely obsessed with television coverage. It's not as if it is the only way of promoting Gaelic games. 

I know there are lots of members of the GAA out there who like watching the big matches--the Munster Hurling Final is one of those must-see occasions for all GAA members. But, like you say Sean, the Munster Football Final certainly isn't.

DRA endorses Of One Belief Action

Although the final decision of the DRA went against Of One Belief, they can take some consolation that their role in playing the devil's advocate met with the approval of the DRA Tribunal.
The real GAA men making up the DRA's Tribunal that heard the case-- Chairman, Michael O'Connell, son of the legendary Mick O'Connell, Mick Loftus, former GAA President, and Damian Maguire--all but praised "the bona fide attempts [by Of One Belief] to ensure that no inroads have been made on the amateur ethos."Can the same be said of Born Again Amateur Dessie Farrell? Is he being honest and sincere when he says that he now subscribes to the amateur ethos of the GAA? How long will his renewed commitment to these values and beliefs last?
The DRA Tribunal didn't feel that Mark Conway and Of One Belief were talking nonsense or that this debate was unnecessary. Quite the contrary, they consider that Of One Belief's actions have assisted in "the multilateral effort that produced" the final scheme--"the finely crafted document." The Stalinist attitude shown by some, like Martin Breheny, in describing Of One Belief as anti-player, is pathetic. Is everyone who campaigns against the Lisbon Treaty in the upcoming referendum in Ireland being anti-European? I think not. Try telling that to Martin et al though.