The GAA need to come clean
Transparency lies at the heart of any modern successful organisation. Governments, societies, clubs and charities must operate in an open manner, where the truth is readily identifiable and the objectives are clear.
One of Ireland’s most identifiable and popular sporting organisations, the GAA, has been smothered in criticism this past week.
Regardless of the outcome last Saturday evening, the previous Sunday a most exhilarating and enthralling championship match was drawn. The GAA announced that Mayo and Kerry would have to replay their All-Ireland semi-final at the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick last Saturday evening.
An eruption ensued. Anger poured from every crevice of the country as outraged ‘patrons’ of the association struggled to comprehend the strangeness of the decision. Mayo and Kerry supporters were almost universal in their bewilderment; the small number of agreeable opinions swallowed up in a sea of angry choruses.
Even Kerry’s close proximity to the Gaelic Grounds was scant consolation to their traveling fans. An All-Ireland semi-final, the second biggest match in the GAA calendar, deserves to be honoured appropriately, they demanded. Surely the game has to take place in Croke Park?
Not according to the GAA. The Association, in its wisdom, decided to schedule an American Football college game smack bang in the middle of the business end of the Championship. Compounding this bizarre oversight, the GAA have refused to move the match forward by seven days, on the remote chance that Dublin and Donegal might draw their semi-final this Sunday.
So, instead of catering for a match it already had, the GAA decided to plan for a match that might not happen. Can someone explain the logic in that?
Of course, there is a bigger issue here. The GAA, with all of its empty lip service to an amateur ethos that in practice no longer exists, appears more interested in serving its commercial interests than it is the interests of its ‘patrons’.
In any language, forcing a championship semi-final out of its rightful home to cater for another non-GAA sports event stinks to high heaven in these circumstances.
There is nothing amateur about the GAA. In fact, the only people that don’t benefit from one of the most profitable sports organisations in the country are the very people that deserve it the most. Is there any consideration for players and their supporters?
The players that sweated blood and tears at Croke Park during the first Kerry v Mayo game were downgraded by the very organisation that is supposed to honour them. And the patrons can scrap for their tickets and travel arrangements.
Take out the impracticality of forcing Mayo fans to drive through bottlenecks and back roads to see their team in an All-Ireland semi final in Limerick. Leave aside the madness of forcing thousands of fans to scramble for tickets in a stadium that is incapable of catering for the demand. Or that the stadium in question cannot facilitate Hawkeye in the event that the umpires again fail to spot a perfectly legitimate point.
The teams and supporters deserve their day in Croke Park. Isn’t that what the GAA Championship is all about? The countless hours of training over the year? The cold, hard nights and the many sacrifices that come with playing at inter county level? And now, instead of a gesture to reward the players in question, they were hit with a giant slap in the face by the ‘suits’ in Croke Park.
The fine work that the GAA has done in developing its games and supporting clubs and communities around Ireland is well documented and it deserves all the praise it gets for its efforts.
If the GAA wants to maximise profits and concentrate its energy into extracting the best financial return from its products, by all means, let them at it. But in return for public acceptance on any potential change of direction, the GAA needs to be upfront about where its main focus lies.
Referring to paying customers as patrons in some sort of token platitude doesn’t sit right with me. It never has. And maybe that might be a good starting point for the Association. Customers have rights, after all.
The Kerry and Mayo players thought they had earned the right to play an All-Ireland semi-final in Croke Park last weekend. Instead, they were shipped out to an inferior stadium under a cloud of frustration and anger, and the GAA have left an overwhelming bitterness in the mouths of many of its customers.
When an organisation like the GAA, claiming to operate under an amateur ethos, places commercial interests ahead of its core values and the needs of its patrons, something has to change. We felt this way too when the GAA concluded its recent broadcasting deal with SKY.
So I’m left wondering, who really benefits from these decisions and why? Where is the fairness and transparency - what do you think?