WHEN Padraic Duffy’s discussion document on ‘Manager Payments’ was released a few months ago, county officials were asked by Croke Park to canvas the views of their members in relation to the options set out in the report.
One after the other, every county has rejected the payment option outright. There is unanimous backing (save for Longford who, like the others, are strenuously opposed to payments, but simply want to retain the status quo) for option 2, involving a strictly monitored expenses based system.
Its official title is: “Implement fully the Association’s existing policy, rules and guidelines on its amateur status.”
Significantly, Padraic has confirmed that his report is a ‘discussion document’ and does not preclude other strategies for achieving the aim agreed upon. Which is just as well, because the method suggested in the report for achieving option 2 is completely useless.
Once, there were three great institutions in Irish life - the Catholic Church, Fianna Fail and the GAA. Only the GAA is left.
The first two self-destructed because although they knew what the problem was and how to solve it, their instinct was to stick with the peculiarly Irish tactic of sitting on their hands.
Along with the dogs in the street, the GAA hierarchy knows exactly what the problem is. It is set out with commendable honesty and clarity in Padraic’s report. But the solution it proposes is simply to strictly monitor financial transactions between counties and managers. Which means doing nothing at all. This is because it is third parties, not County Boards who pay the money.
The team of auditors who descend upon any County Board HQ in the country tomorrow will find books as clean as Tony Soprano’s.
If option 2 is endorsed by Congress, the same team of auditors will go in to the same County Board offices in a year’s time. Again, they will find nothing, because there was nothing to find in the first place.
Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
In reality, option 2, like option 1 (do nothing), is simply another wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Tommy Lyons summed up the ‘nod and wink’ culture on RTE radio last week. He described how in 2010 when he was interviewed for the Mayo manager’s job, a senior board member asked him beforehand to write down on a slip of paper how much he wanted, put it in a sealed envelope and give it to another official. The senior board member didn’t want to know any more about it.
The envelope, it seems, was to be passed to others outside the board. Tommy described on the programme how he responded angrily, saying: “I asked him what part of ‘I don’t want to be paid’ he didn’t understand.”
Tom Waldron, the Mayo board chairman at the time, has since responded to the allegation by saying that only “legitimate expenses” were discussed.
Lyons is stoutly standing by his account. I have known Tommy for many years. Whatever might be said of him, he is a terrific GAA man and his heart is in the right place. It is well known that he has never taken a penny for managing teams.
I remember being at Kilmacud Crokes for the “Sevens” over a decade ago and was greeted by the sight of Tommy lining out one of the pitches. This widely respected, high profiled figure in Irish life has publicly accused the Mayo Board at that time of colluding in arranging illegal managerial payments. Yet the hierarchy has taken no action whatever.
One can readily imagine them cringing in embarrassment as they listened to Tommy as he let the cat out of the bag. Instead of launching an immediate investigation, their response has been to twiddle their thumbs and hope this embarrassing affair will go away.
It is precisely this culture of saying one thing and doing another that has created the current problem. It is precisely this culture which is behind the thoroughly inept solution proposed in the document for policing the amateur ethos.
The nub of the problem is that most county and club officials genuinely believe in the amateur ideal, but the current system puts them under huge pressure to succumb. They feel safer with a big name. There is a pool of smooth, carpet-bagging outside managers who will drop everything and take over a new county at a moment’s notice. All they expect in return are brown envelopes.
Now is the time to sweep this cartel away. Banish them for once and for all. As I have shouted until I am blue in the face, to Christy Cooney and Padraic Duffy and Jarlath Burns and all the other movers and shakers, there is only ONE way to do this: Make the eligibility for management the same as for playing.
Only a clubman can manage his club; only a county man his county. Put this in the rule book at the next Congress and at a stroke, the amateur ideal becomes a permanent reality.
To do this, however, requires guts. More than that, it requires honesty, real honesty. It will, of course, bring controversy and recrimination in the short term. It will also mean pointing the finger of blame at individuals and carrying out proper investigations where breaches are suspected.
Call it rooting out the few for the good of the many.
The hierarchy have been handed an overwhelming mandate to drive the Money Lenders from the Temple. The problem is that the strategy for achieving this set out in the Duffy Report does nothing of the sort. The moneylenders will simply step outside into the temple car-park.
The Duffy Report quotes Christy Cooney’s words on the amateur ideal at the recent congress: “Why do we proclaim our values and then fail to deliver? Is it not time to stand up and be counted?”
The answer to that, gentlemen, is a resounding ‘yes.’ Now stand up and be counted!