The GAA has doubled down on its rules and regulations around Go Games, the national policy for football, hurling and camogie which requires all games played at under-12 level and below to take place without any competitive element.
Set up 13 years ago, Go Games can, by permission, also be organised on a blitz basis, again once no provision is made to publish scores, to play on a knock-out basis, or to present trophies at under-12 level and below.
In response to a report in the Irish News on Wednesday the GAA had notified clubs of the sanctions for those in breach of Go Games, Croke Park said there was no change in the existing policy, nor will there be.
“There is nothing new in this, it’s just a doubling down, if you like, of Go Games as official GAA policy,” said Alan Milton, GAA director of communications. “And to remind clubs and teams of their responsibilities.
“Go Games has been a big success, in those 13 years. It was a new departure, to a lot of people, caught up in the competitive nature of games, way too young. It’s been a sea change, and even if there are challenges with it, from time to time, it’s still infinitely better than what was there before. People just weren’t as clued-in to making it as fun and as alluring to young people, to ensure they keep coming back.
“But you can’t become complacent about it, you have to keep working at it, to make sure Go Games are as good as they can be.
“In some of the research work that we do, we sometimes get reminders that we have to stay on top of this, are duty bound to revisit it, that all children of that age deserve the same amount of playing time, in a non-competitive environment.”
An email was circulated to all counties reiterating there “is no facility, under Association rule, for any competitive aspect within these games”, and that Go Games blitzes also require an online application for approval.
“Again, there’s no new departure, no new directive, only reminding people what currently exists. Go Games is very, very popular, and if anything, it’s probably one of the most successful things we’ve ever done in the promotion of our games,” said Milton.
Inevitably, however, there is still some debate around whether or not Go Games is best policy for all. Speaking at GAA congress in February, however, Association president Larry McCarthy also highlighted the need to ensure all Under-12 Go Games take place without any competitive element.
“The over-emphasis on winning at such a young age is totally anathema to the philosophy of Go Games, is damaging to children, and deters people from involvement in the Association,” he said.
“When our Go Games programme was launched it was rightfully lauded for its philosophy of inclusion and encouragement, essentially making sure all children had fun.
“We need to return to that founding philosophy. Competitive Go Games tournaments have no place on our calendar and I would ask you not to organise, endorse, or give permission for them to take place.”