Congress to be asked to ease restriction on the use of GAA grounds

New rule would give Central Council the power to sanction use of grounds for non-GAA purposes

Fans attending the Liam Miller tribute match at Páirc Uí Chaoimh, Cork. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Fans attending the Liam Miller tribute match at Páirc Uí Chaoimh, Cork. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

 

A week after claiming they felt “bullied” into allowing Páirc Uí Chaoimh host the Liam Miller soccer tribute last September, the GAA is prepared to offer a hand of peace if or when so-called foreign games come looking to use Association property.

In one of the headline motions cleared for the 2019 Congress clár in Wexford later this month, Central Council are looking to amend Rule 5.1, formerly Rule 42, revising not just the wording but also the tone.

Should it receive the necessary 60 per cent backing, the new rule would give Central Council the power to sanction the use of all county or provincial grounds “for activities other than those controlled by the Association” and “in accordance with policy adopted by Central Council”.

Currently this only applies in exceptional circumstances in the case of Croke Park.

The revised wording is also significant. Currently, the rule states that GAA grounds can only be used for “purposes not in conflict with the aims and objects of the Association”; if passed, the word “in conflict” is removed, and replaced by “in accordance with policy adopted by Central Council”, thus expressing it in more positive or indeed welcoming terms.

The motion is largely motivated by the controversy last July when permission to stage the Liam Miller tribute match at Páirc Uí Chaoimh 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.

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

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; the fact this year’s proposal comes from Central Council also strengthens its prospects of success.

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... 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.

“You could argue that some of the aims of the Association extend into community and being a force for good in the country. 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?”

Training period

This is one of the 43 motions approved for Congress 2019, set for Wexford on February 22nd/23rd, the rest dealing mostly with 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 to 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. Under the new proposal teams will not be allowed any “overnight” stays, unless they receive advance permission.

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.

Motion 11 also looks to clarify the criteria governing the choice of venue for inter-county championship matches, partly of the back on the controversial decision of the CCCC to fix the qualifier match between Kildare and Mayo for Croke Park last year, before game went ultimately went ahead in Newbridge.

The new rule simply states that venues “shall meet the criteria set down by the National Facilities/Health and Safety Committee”, meaning that ground capacity will not be the primary or overriding factor.

Other motions include the further specifying that All-Ireland finals be played on or before the 35th Sunday in the year, or 36th Sunday if the first Sunday of the year falls on January 1st (Motion 24); Motion 28 seeks to align all underage grades at club level to Adult, Under-19, Under-17, Under-15, etc.

Motion 40 from the O’Loughlin Gaels club in Kilkenny also allows for the All-Ireland finals to be played on or before the third Sunday in September, as was the case before the three-year trial to play them before the end of August. 

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