Meeting with county top brass an important step
FOOTBALL REVIEW COMMITTEE: County chairpersons are the latest focus group to interact with Eugene McGee’s committee, writes SEÁN MORAN
LAST NIGHT in Croke Park the Football Review Committee (FRC) met with arguably the most important focus group in its deliberations on what – if any – problems are facing Gaelic football and how to address them. This weekend the county chairpersons are in town for routine meetings and got the opportunity to interact with the FRC.
The turn-out from the counties was expected to be good with just Roscommon unable to be present.
The exchanges will have been important because not alone was the input coming from the highest-ranked officials in each county but with an eye on securing the acceptance at congress of whatever proposals emerge, Eugene McGee and his committee won’t have met with a more influential audience.
This is all the more important given the emerging indications that the FRC are going to be asked to do more than simply reflect the concerns of the wider GAA about the future of its most popular game and instead frame concrete proposals based on those issues which have prompted consensus views.
“The reason I appointed the committee,” says GAA president Liam O’Neill, “is that I wanted an independent group to identify what are the issues in the game but apart from occasional meetings I haven’t got involved and I’m not going to limit how they go about their business.”
There is also within the GAA a strong belief that the FRC should become more of an advocacy group for the proposals they help to bring about – simply because it would be time-consuming and repetitive were it necessary for a second body to be appointed to devise ideas to meet the stated concerns and also to draw up an implementation programme in time for next April’s annual congress.
From his appointment at the end of April, committee chair Eugene McGee – “I don’t know Liam O’Neill well but I was surprised he pulled this out of the hat,” said McGee this week, “maybe he spoke to 10 other people who turned him down” – emphasised the importance of listening to the concerns of all sufficiently interested to communicate with his committee.
“It’s the biggest engagement in the game’s history,” he says. “It gives all of these people the chance to contribute and in a way it’s almost an emotional experience to receive messages, saying that they’re delighted to get the chance and that they’ve never before been able to make their views known. We were contacted at one stage by an old man who’d played in the 1950s and I talked to him for half an hour about his views. I’m amazed at how attached so many people in the country are to the game of football.”
Statistics bear out the workload taken up voluntarily by those involved, as they sift through the submissions. On the FRC website, the questionnaire has drawn approximately 3,000 responses.
Five hundred e-mails and 300 letters to the committee have also been processed. As part of an academic project in DCU, 1,500 hours of football, including DVDs of 55 matches chosen for comparative purposes, have been watched.
On top of that there have been meetings with an exhaustive list of identified stake holders drawn from all levels of involvement and of which last night’s colloquy with county chairs was just the latest.
On taking over the presidency earlier this year, O’Neill was immediately and unreasonably under fire for saying – at his first press conference – that some aspects of modern football – defensiveness and excessive use of the hand pass – are boring. There is within the game a touchiness that whereas hurling gets uncritical acclaim and automatic status as a cultural treasure, football – despite being far more popular and bringing in by far the greater revenues – is constantly criticised and belittled.