The Irish Times view on the GAA’s own goal over the Liam Miller testimonial
There appears to be no reason why Central Council couldn’t relax rule 5.1 and make Páirc Uí Chaoimh available in this instance
Liam Miller died from cancer at the young age of 36 from pancreatic cancer. Photograph: Jamie McDonald/Getty Images
It is difficult to imagine that there are many, including within the GAA, who are comfortable with the controversy concerning the non-availability of Páirc Uí Chaoimh for the Liam Miller testimonial at the end of September. A former Republic of Ireland soccer international from Cork, Miller died from cancer at the sadly young age of 36 and hopes had been expressed that a testimonial soccer match for his family could be staged at Páirc Uí Chaoimh, the biggest stadium in Cork.
Under GAA rule 5.1, however, association property may be not be used for field games, “other than those sanctioned by Central Council”. That has been traditionally held to exclude competitor sports, such as rugby and soccer, and furthermore to be a matter reserved for annual congress. That was the body that in 2005 relaxed the rule in respect of Croke Park to allow internationals take place when Lansdowne Road was being rebuilt. Part of the reassurance for delegates then was that the overall rule would still stand as a protection for those clubs who believed their facilities bestowed a vital advantage in attracting participants to play Gaelic games. That stance was endorsed as recently as two years ago.
None of this diminishes the embarrassment for the GAA in seeing the scale of the Miller testimonial reduced as a result of rigid adherence to the association’s official guide.The association’s venues are frequently used for pop concerts despite rule 1.4 with its stated mission of support for “traditional Irish dancing, music, song, and other aspects of Irish culture”. With congress approval, the GAA also offered many of its stadiums to facilitate the IRFU’s unsuccessful bid for the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
Although the GAA has ruled out any flexibility in the matter, there is an argument that central council, as empowered by 5.1, could relax the rule in this instance, pending a proposal to next year’s congress allowing the GAA’s management committee the discretion to waive the provision in exceptional cases. The GAA should also consider the advisability of maintaining rules that prove in certain cases to be insupportable.