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GAA needs to loosen grip and let clubs make own decisions

February 14th, 2016 2:00 PM

By Southern Star Team

GAA needs to loosen grip and let clubs make own decisions Image
Hot-water: Dromard GAA Club received a €2,000 fine after allowing the Jamie Carragher Soccer School summer camp take place at their club grounds in Longford in August 2015.

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The Last Word by Kieran McCarthy

IT’S an unwanted first in the GAA but it’s not the first time that the Association has got it badly wrong, either.

Last week Dromard GAA Club was slapped with a €2,000 fine for allowing the Jamie Carragher Soccer School summer camp take place at their club grounds in Longford in August 2015.

The camp was organised by soccer club UCL Harps, from Gowna in Cavan, and even former Liverpool great Carragher himself paid a visit while it was being held.

But Dromard GAA broke a rule, namely Rule 5.1 (b) of the Official Guide, which governs the use of the Association’s property.

That rule states that a GAA property ‘shall be used only for the purpose of or in connection with the playing of the Games controlled by the Association, and for such other purposes not in conflict with the aims and objects of the Association, that may be sanctioned from time to time by the Central Council.’

It’s the first time that a GAA club has been punished for breaching Rule 5.1 (b) of the Official Guide.

Rules are rules, and they are there for a reason, and, yes, Dromard broke this particular rule – but they’re not the only club in the country to have done so. Anyone ever hear of five-a-side soccer being played on a GAA all-weather pitch? Thought so.

Clubs should be entitled, considering that they have poured a lot of money into improving their own facilities, to generate revenue from those facilities. 

Clubs are the bedrock of the GAA. The Association needs to help its clubs. These clubs need money. Hosting soccer camps or five-a-side soccer games brings much-needed money into clubs, who are finding it harder and harder to survive in these times.

A GAA club won’t get rich if it hosts a soccer camp, but it would earn some money to pump back into the club and help improve the facilities for its members – maybe new jerseys for the U12s, it could go towards ground redevelopment, or any other number of initiatives.

How can the GAA, as the governing body of the Association, claim to help clubs (especially rural clubs) survive and grow, if they are cutting off and limiting a possible financial avenue that will, in the long run, help a GAA club survive?

GAA clubs should be encouraged to think outside the box, not be punished when they do so. Let clubs, if they have the facilities and are willing, host soccer camps, or a boxing event, or a rugby training session, etc.

Only a couple of years ago (maybe two), I watched the Kerry senior football team train on Killarney Celtic’s main astro-turf pitch one evening while the club’s schoolboys’ teams were moved to accommodate this. Nobody batted an eyelid. I’ve seen Killarney Rugby Club train on the very same astro-turf pitch. Again, no one looked twice. You can rent out the pitch. The money goes back to the club. Everyone’s a winner.

If a soccer club can supply a facility for a GAA or rugby club, and earn money, why can’t a GAA club do likewise?

Surely, this isn’t the old-fashioned and out-dated mentality of GAA doing its utmost to prevent kids playing that ‘foreign sport’ (aka soccer). Surely, the anti-soccer brigade are the minority in these times? 

The GAA has left itself open to stinging criticism since they hit Longford club Dromard with the €2,000 fine, with words and phrases such as ‘hypocrisy’ and ‘double standards’ used, considering that Croke Park has hosted rugby and soccer internationals and American football, and it also opens its doors for concerts, etc. 

GAA venues will also be used if the country’s 2023 Rugby World Cup bid is successful, and Central Council has the power to authorise the opening of any GAA ground for the Rugby World Cup. Money talks.

Rule 42, famously, was altered in 2005 to allow international games take place in Croke Park, and Central Council can decide on what codes are allowed to play there.

It was Rule 5.1 (b) that ended up getting Dromard GAA Club in trouble, and this rule needs to change, for the sake of clubs and counties, who could also rent out their facilities to other codes. At the very least, clubs and counties should be allowed to do what they think is best for their particular club or county.

At the upcoming GAA Congress there’s a motion on the cards, being brought by Miltown/Malbay, that wants to open all county grounds – not just Croke Park – to other games.

This motion is looking to amend Rule 5.1 (b) so that ‘Central Council shall have the power to authorise the use of Croke Park and all county grounds for games other than those controlled by the Association’.

A similar motion was defeated at last year’s GAA Congress. Asking for all county grounds to be opened for non-GAA sports, it received just 39.7 per cent of votes from delegates.

But given the poor PR the GAA has received this past week in light of its punishment to Dromard GAA Club (who are appealing the decision), it wouldn’t be surprising to see this motion passed at GAA Congress in Carlow later the month.

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