THE VIEW FROM THE TOP TABLE A photo taken at the 2016 Mayo GAA County Convention in Claremorris. Pic: Michael McLaughlin
HERE we go again . . . washing our dirty linen in public.
No year goes by without some howler emanating from Mayo GAA Board wiping once again the gloss from the county’s football achievements.
And as in many other controversies, communication – or lack of it – is at the heart of the crisis.
It relates to monies raised in America by the Mayo International Supporters Foundation, a group formed with the motive of supporting Mayo’s drive for All-Ireland senior success.
Businessman Tim O’Leary made a personal contribution of €150,000 towards the county’s senior team early in 2018. Later, he asked for receipts on how the money was spent and it seems was not happy with the response from the board.
In August of last year Mr O’Leary, whose mother is a native of Glenhest, met with representatives of the County Board and some former players, and a vision for the future of Mayo football was shaped.
A business plan it appears was to be drawn up for a proposed underage Academy and a Centre of Excellence at Lough Lannagh in Castlebar for which funding would be raised.
Subsequently, the Mayo GAA International Supporters Foundation was formed, with Mr O’Leary as chairman, and was launched in the Big Apple in conjunction with Mayo’s championship engagement with New York.
How this organisation came into being has not been revealed.
Funding from the foundation, which was raised by last May’s Gala dinner, was provided to Mayo Roscommon Hospice, New York GAA and Rockland GAA in New York. Mayo’s senior training camp at Rocklands benefited to the tune of €60,000.
Subsequently, Mayo GAA requested further funding from the foundation, but were asked first to present development plans for the projects they had in mind.
For some reason relations between the board and the foundation broke down, the foundation alleging that the ‘stroke that broke the camel’s back was the failure of the county board to stand by its commitment to provide 10 All-Ireland tickets for the Gala Auction.’
It is claimed that Mr O’Leary and the International Foundation has made financial contributions of €415,000 to Mayo GAA during a 12-month period.
Now the foundation has ceased funding and will not release €250,000 until ‘appropriate governance structures are put in place’.
All of this was outlined in a letter e-mailed to clubs in Mayo. And when a club delegate sought at a County Board meeting last week to have the letter read, he was told no such letter was received by the executive.
“Maybe we’ll get it tomorrow” was the reply from board chairman, Mike Connelly.
“The plan is that we have put a development plan in place to draw down the €250,00 from the foundation and the Mayo GAA Commercial Manager is doing that as we speak.”
Dismay was expressed by members that while the letter was in wide circulation, no member of the executive received a copy.
Since the coffers of the board are almost depleted it was felt that the money withheld was badly needed.
And the executive was told that they should be talking to Mr O’Leary.
And that’s at the root of the problem. Lack of communication between the Executive and Mr O’Leary, and between the Executive and board members.
Why members of the board have not been kept fully abreast of developments is an alarming lapse of courtesy. What part had the board to play in the formation of the foundation?
Why did relations come to this?
Or was it a question of taking O’Leary’s money but keeping him at arm’s length.
Misuse of funds is not questioned. But a serious question mark hangs over the issue of clarity. . . about keeping the board members informed. What is the point of having a board of members if they are left in the dark about significant issues?
One erudite board member crystallised the problem.
Said Castlebar’s Michael Diskin: “There is an organisation out there purporting to be raising money for Mayo GAA, using the Mayo [GAA] crest.”
And he put the question: “Have the Mayo County Board any representative on the committee or on the organisation there? If they haven’t, they should have.”
In a nutshell Michael Diskin laid bare incompetence on the part of the executive. If the board members had been kept in touch the latest controversy might not have developed.
Michael Diskin would have put them right.