New GAA director general Tom Ryan accepts the organisation’s governance of its amateur status has room for improvement.
Similar to remarks made by new president John Horan following Congress in February, the Carlow native doesn’t regard rules or penalties as a means of ensuring the ethos is enshrined, but an all-round buy-in across the organisation.
Even if it was permissible by the Association’s Official Guide, former GAA director of finance Ryan admits he would have a difficulty with managers being paid and is adamant the GAA has to practice what it preaches.
“It poses a problem on a few levels. First and foremost, on a very simple level, you can see how it imposes a significant burden on clubs and on counties just to generate the income to actually pay for those costs.
“That’s something that creates a pressure in the association. Beyond that, from a rule point of view, we have rules and we have provisions in the rulebook at the moment that speak to that particular situation and, while they are not being observed that creates a problem, but even more fundamentally, there is a problem with us all saying that we want something, or saying that these are the values by which we want to run the association, and then doing something different.
“So, even if it wasn’t within a rulebook, or even if there was no problem for people to pay for all these costs, I would still have a problem with it and I say that — at the same time I have the height of regard for anybody that takes on the responsibility for managing and running a team — but the way that it’s governed by ourselves at the minute does leave a bit to be desired.”
Ryan’s predecessor Páraic Duffy proposed in a discussion paper the idea of managers receiving remuneration that was controlled and Ryan indicated the rule may need updating, even though he is adamant the answer to the amateur question is not in the rules.
“There is a bit of work to be done on the rulebook and we can tidy up the rules a little bit. I don’t know how long that particular iteration or version of the rule is in place, but things probably have moved on a little bit, so there is a bit of tidying up to be done about the rules, but the answer is not really in rules and the answer is not really in penalties; the answer is in the whole lot of us signing up to a collective set of values and vision for what we want the GAA to be, and when I say the whole lot of us, I mean every county and every unit striving towards achieving that.”
He continued: “It’s a question of just taking a step back and looking at the totality of how we want the whole thing to be run and, if we are in an environment where there are more than a few units doing that, there is not much to be gained by singling out one, and maybe one at the mercy of its creditors. I think it’s a question for the entire association.”
As for Horan’s hopes for a two-tier All-Ireland senior football championship before he steps down in early 2021, Ryan sees the current structure as a work in progress.
“It’s interesting, isn’t it?” said Ryan, “because in hurling that has kind of been accepted and people are happy with their place in the hurling pecking order, promotion, relegation and so on notwithstanding. Football-wise, it just seems to be more problematic and I think that is probably borne out of any county, however small, might like to think that on a given day they can get a result against one of the big boys, whereas perhaps in hurling that’s more unlikely.
“I think the shape that the championships eventually will take, it mightn’t be where we are now. I see it very much in an evolution. We’re about to embark on three years of trial or experimentation or whatever you’d call it, and I think at the end of that we’ll probably know where we need to go next in terms of the evolution. I don’t think it’s the finished article.”
On the matter of his appointment last month, Ryan says he will be aiming to disprove some notions about him being an insider who will be predominantly influenced by financial matters.
“While I was in what was overtly a financial role, I’d like to think that my thinking wasn’t purely financial. I think finance and commercialism within the association as a means to an end is nothing more than that.
“It’s the means by which you try to accumulate the resources in order to further the other stuff that you have to do. It was no harm to a certain extent that I was coming from the financial perspective.”
By John Fogarty
GAA Correspondent Irish Examiner