Organisation must start singing from the same hymn sheet
On Gaelic Games:Each year the GAA director general produces his annual report. It’s a red-letter for the media because it puts a vast amount of material into the public domain. Some years the Geiger counter goes crazy when the report is handed over and in others, as happened this week, the emissions are considered mostly safe.
That is, however, superficial judgment on a document, which hits nearly 20,000 words, because beyond the headline topics and trenchant opinions there runs through Páraic Duffy’s report a sense of frustration at the executive limitations that come with full-time stewardship of an overwhelmingly voluntary organisation.
For some time there have been concerns that there has developed a disconnection between grassroots membership and the national administration in Croke Park, including a belief that an over-staffed bureaucracy in Dublin spends its time thinking up new regulatory burdens for ordinary clubs and members.
The problem has been seen as one of communication and since Duffy succeeded Liam Mulvihill, he has prioritised the overhaul of the relevant systems to explain policy and seek feedback.
But sometimes it cuts the other way. Full-time administrators are clearly in a better position to identify problems and commission and analyse evidence-based research with a view to advancing solutions.
Consultation is important because of the nature of an organisation, which already moves slowly in terms of its institutional decision making and may not move at all if it takes against something. Yet the problems can run deeper than that: it’s not unusual for decisions taken at one meeting to be overturned as soon as people wake up to the consequences.
Such inattention is probably inevitable among decision makers, who are involved on a voluntary basis with the limited engagement that can sometimes entail.
Then, as with the recent restriction on sideline personnel, an issue can become even more protracted. Here we saw a problem identified (indiscipline on the sidelines, facilitated and exacerbated by the numbers present), a solution proposed (limit those numbers), solution accepted (by Central Council at the end of last year), solution challenged and after further discussion decisively accepted a second time (Central Council meeting in January) and yet the sniping and complaining continues, along with the fatuous accusation that the process has been in some way dictatorial.
There have been other recent examples of this difficulty in attempting to secure acceptance for duly adopted policy and rules. The original close season regulations brought in five years ago had more coach-and-fours driven through them than an 18th-century highway despite counties having voted for their introduction.
This dysfunction – the tension between good practice and its implementation – and its consequences appear in this week’s annual report in one of the most important contexts, the efforts to increase public interest in the games.