This is not an attempt to make people yawn. This is an attempt to put into perspective how backwards the GAA is an organisation.
It is easy to knock, it is easy to complain. This is Ireland after all; a place where we specialise in kicking people when they are down, and offer continuous problems as opposed to constructive solutions.
But GAA just continues to stand still, and fails to efficiently move forward with the times. So here we put ten concrete reasons forward as to why the GAA is such a backwards organisation at this moment in time.
It is one-sided, features criticisms, but changes need to be made in these areas. And nobody is holding their breath in waiting for change any time soon.
1. All-Ireland Club Finals Taking Place On St. Patrick’s Day
It is a tradition. It is a big day out for communities. It is the biggest day in the club calendar. This writer is the strongest club advocate one could find anywhere and fully believes that they deserve a big day out in Croke Park, but the timing of the All-Ireland club final is scandalous and makes absolutely no sense.
A club can start a championship season in April and play an All-Ireland final on March 17th of the following year: eleven months without a conclusion to their season. In some cases the provincial final would be played in December, or even earlier, and it takes at least another three months for a semi-final and a final to be played.
It should be, and needs be totally condensed. This would suit everybody, and while it would see an end to a ‘tradition’. An adequate substitute can easily be found for Headquarters on St. Patrick’s Day.
2. The Main Competition Takes Five Months To Be Played And A Team Will Play Six Games At Most
Let’s compare GAA to soccer here for a minute. OK, there’s more players participating in soccer, there is a lot more money involved and it is professional. But, put it all in context. Their main season is a league consisting of 38 games over nine months. They have cup competitions that run alongside these, providing a continuous season loaded with competitive games.
But the main thing to look at here are the major international tournaments such as the World Cup and the European Championships. Over four to five weeks, everything is done and dusted. While intercounty GAA players may have to wait that long to just play a game, not to mind club players.
It is crazy that the All-Ireland championships take so long. They have to be shortened.
3. A Team Gets More Competitive Games In Pre-Season Than in Peak Season
We alerted the this point in our assessment of the National Hurling League and fully admit that the point was first heard in the Irish Examiner in Kieran Shannon’s column. But this writer has rarely heard more sense spoken in the assessment of GAA.
The reality is that teams at intercounty level play more games between January and April than they do during the summer. How can that add up correctly? In hurling every team is guaranteed 6 games in 8 weeks. In football, all teams are certain to play 7 games in 10 weeks. This is exactly what counties are looking for, but they get it in pre-season, there is no way it all adds up.
The GAA has its competitions the wrong way around.
4. Cowboys Get Paid and Loyal People Get Nothing
This is this writer’s biggest pet-hate. Times have changed and it can cost money for teams to win championships. A team can need good conditioning and a different voice from outside can add something to a club or county. So it is not being suggested that no outside coaches or managers should be allowed.
But the amount of money being throwing at coaches these days is crazy. And it’s not even the fact that coaches are getting paid, it is the fact a lot of unqualified coaches are getting paid a lot of money to do poor jobs.
And those people that are loyal to their own clubs, don’t have a hope in hell of ever seeing a cent. This is why the term ‘cowboys’ is used. People are rewarded financially for training teams outside of their own club, but get nothing for training their own.
5. Those Who Try To Play The Most Suffer
The GAA composes of a number of different codes. From young ages players are encouraged to participate in hurling and football. Most people enjoy playing both codes. While some tend to specialise in one, a lot of people play both all the way through their careers.
So instead of encouraging people to play both, the way GAA is now structured makes it next to near impossible for people to play both hurling and football at a high level. The days of dual starts at intercounty level are pretty much gone.
At club level, clubs who have a tradition or try to put everything into hurling and football put themselves at a distinct disadvantage.
So instead of teams or people being complimented or rewarded for their time and efforts, they actually suffer.
6. Nearly All The Power Lies With Intercounty Managers
This is nearly the biggest problem of all. And the GAA allowing this to happen is disgraceful . The reality is that intercounty managers dictate what goes on in different counties. It is they who put the club games on hold, it is they who refuse to release players for matches or training.
If they are allowed to do so, then they should do whatever they want to get the best of their team. But therein lies the problem, they are allowed to do so. The GAA hierarchy just sit back and allow over 95% of their people to stay idle, while the intercounty scene plays out one of the most ridiculous training to match ratios that occurs in any sport.
There are constant talks of burnout, over training and other things. Take power away from managers and make out a set fixture list. That would solve a lot of problems.
7. A Team Is Guaranteed TWO Games During Peak Season
This point was alerted to earlier. But when seen it is perspective, it shows what a backward organisation GAA can be. GAA’s peak season is the summer months and during this time the most amount of games any team is guaranteed is two.
So a team trains for up to six months, to only have two guaranteed games at a time when they want to be playing games every week.
8. Senior Officials Tend To Be Unmovable Figures
Secretaries, Presidents, Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Treasurers…the list goes on. All of these positions that exist in GAA clubs or county boards are somehow continuously filled by the same people. And when a position comes up for grabs, it tends to be filled pretty quickly, often by a friend or a relation of the person vacating their post.
Frank Murphy in Cork is a much publicised figure. The Fitzgerald family fill a lot of the important positions in Clare GAA. There are probably other examples in other counties. It is classic GAA politics. And there is no doubt that many GAA figures have been a victim of politics at some stage in their lives.
9. The Highest Authorities Take No Responsibility
This was also highlighted in a previous point about the power given to managers. And all of this derives from a lack of leadership from the top tables. The GAA head figures in Croke Park do not take next to near enough responsibility for the wellbeing or the condition of Gaelic games.
Their silence is deafening on issues that are constantly cropping up day after day. All media sources are like broken records at this stage. The exact same arguments keep appearing and yet none the head figures are changing anything.
Burnout, Dublin playing every game in Croke Park, club players, elitism, lack of funding to smaller counties, more games, better structures; the list goes on and nothing will change.
Here is the GAA Presidant addressing people at the GAA Asian Games, promoting the game abroad when they cannot even deal with all the issues on Irish soil.
10. Any Change Must Go Before Congress Unless The GAA Want Something Brought In
Rule changes in GAA are laughable. When it suits, the Congress card gets played, yet some changes can miraculously occur without any consultation or opposition. The two best examples are the selling of television rights to Sky and the hurling penalty rule in 2014.
The GAA saw an opportunity to make money for themselves and sold out to Sky Sports. Whether you agree with the deal or not, the way it was brought in was shambolic. If the GAA weren’t benefitting from it, they would have made the motion go to Congress and it would have needed a two thirds majority vote to be passed. But no, they just worked away.
The hurling penalty back in 2014 was another joke beyond belief. They had a full winter in 2013 and the beginning of 2014 to change the rule or trial something different. Instead, they do nothing and change the rule in the middle of championship. Change the rule to reward defenders and punish attackers.
Makes plenty of sense doesn’t it?
So there are 10 things that show how backwards the GAA is at the moment. We fully understand how easy it is to criticise and whinge about everything. We will follow this piece up with 10 recommendations or solutions to improve the current GAA set-up in the coming days.
So stay tuned to Pundit Arena GAA, and if you have any more to add to what we have said. Feel free to let us know.
Sean Cremin, Pundit Arena