Congress 2019 to vote on opening all grounds to foreign games

Motion 19 looks to amend the existing rule to include provincial and county grounds

GAA Congress is set for Wexford on February 22nd/23rd. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

GAA Congress is set for Wexford on February 22nd/23rd. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

 

Congress 2019 will get to vote on the further relaxing of the rule prohibiting the use of GAA grounds for other sports, beyond the exception already afforded to Croke Park.

Motion 19, submitted by Central Council, has been cleared for Congress, set for Wexford on February 22nd/23rd, and looks to amend the existing rule to include provincial and county grounds, and also express it in more positive terms.

Currently, the rule prohibits the playing of games “in conflict” with the aims and objects of the Association; the amended rule would allow permission “for other such purposes” which are “in accordance with policy adopted by Central Council” - and no longer applies to Croke Park only, although club facilities will remain excluded.

The motion was largely motivated by the controversy last July when permission to stage the Liam Miller tribute match at Páirc Uí Chaoimh in Cork in September was originally refused, only for the GAA’s management committee to recommend the overturning of that decision, putting its preference in a proposal via Central Council.

A similar motion has been advanced in the past, frequently by Clare club St Joseph’s Miltown-Malbay, but the fact this year’s proposal comes from Central Council will strengthens its prospects of success. The most recent tabling of the motion in 2016 met defeat with fewer than 25 per cent of the votes in favour: that would normally mean the motion couldn’t be heard again for another three years but there is a provision for Management Committee to waive the restriction in exceptional circumstances.

Should it be passed, it will be the first major extension of the rule governing the use of GAA grounds since Rule 42 (now Rule 5.1) was modified in 2005 to allow rugby and soccer internationals to be played in Croke Park during the reconstruction of Lansdowne Road.

Last week, in Tom Ryan’s first annual report as director general, he revisited the pressures created by the public outcry that greeted the GAA stance that a soccer match couldn’t be played in the new Páirc Uí Chaoimh, as it was contrary to rule.

“Much of the clamour that arose,” Ryan said in his report, “amounted to demands for us just to ignore own standards and indeed our decision makers. To ignore the rule or find a loophole and host the game. As a body charged with trying to uphold standards we should not be in the business of finding ways around our own rules... the overwhelming sentiment being that we felt we had been bullied into a course of action that we might well have taken anyway if given the chance.”

This dilemma would be addressed by changing the wording “for other such purposes” which are “in accordance with policy adopted by Central Council”.

“You could argue that some of the aims of the association extend into community and being a force for good in the country,” Ryan added in his report. “That’s the interpretation that we had to take and look at the broader picture - are we doing more damage to the association by relying on a very, very literal interpretation of what’s in the rule book and does the spirit of what’s intended allow us to undertake the route we took?”

This is one of the 43 motions approved for Congress 2019, which mostly deal with minor housekeeping matters, amendments to age categories, and further specifying the “winner on the day” provision to include All-Ireland hurling preliminary quarter-finals and the Joe McDonagh Cup

Motion 14 also calls for an amendment the restriction placed on county training or a team training holiday during the closed season, including the April window now reserved for club activity only: counties can now apply for written permission for such a training period, at home or abroad, for possible clearance by the Central Competitions Control Committee (CCCC), thereby avoiding any penalty.

The Donegal motion seeking to prevent any county from playing two games at Croke Park during the Super-8s was also cleared for the Congress. While not necessarily aimed directly at Dublin, the Donegal motion will prevent any county from designating Croke Park as a ‘home’ venue in the Super 8s football stage, such as Dublin did last year (meaning they were guaranteed two games in GAA headquarters). If passed, and Dublin reach the Super 8s as expected, they will either have to play their ‘home’ game in Parnell Park or a larger neutral venue of their choice other than Croke Park.

As expected, there will be no debate over the GAA’s controversial subscription-based TV rights, namely with Sky, as that matter won’t be revisited again until 2020 Congress. Three motions last year failed to make it onto the clár, ruled out on the basis they essentially mirrored a 2016 motion, tabled by the St Joseph’s Boys club in Dublin; that motion was firmly defeated (15-85) and as it failed to receive one-third backing, a similar motion may not be permitted on the clár in the subsequent three years “unless the management committee allows it in exceptional circumstances”.

All motions will require 60 per cent support, or two thirds majority, in order to be passed.

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