New GAA strategic plan aims to make association ‘more diverse and inclusive’

Other key goals include recruitment of referees and expanding the reach of hurling

The GAA has unveiled its latest strategic plan to take the association up until 2026. The report, 'Aontas 2026: Towards One GAA For All' was launched on Monday at the St Fechin's club in Louth in the presence of GAA president Larry McCarthy and director general Tom Ryan.

In his introductory message, the president explained why the plan was called ‘Aontas (Union) 2026’: “The title also reflects our commitment to strengthen the connection we have with our members and supporters and make the GAA a more diverse and inclusive organisation where everyone feels welcome to participate in our games and activities.”

Among the pressing issues identified were the amalgamation of the GAA with its sister organisations in camogie and women’s football, the need to create a better environment to encourage the recruitment of referees, the strengthening of relationships with the education sector and expanding the reach of hurling.

There will also be an increase in the club fund from €3 million to €5 million.

A presentation by the GAA’s organisational development manager Ruairí Harvey outlined the key areas, including the objective of forming “one association to govern all Gaelic games codes,” a governance endorsement of the decisions by the association and its counterparts in the women’s games, camogie and football, to seek integration.

That was the primary recommendation in the focus area of governance and operations. Other focus areas were games, people, clubs, communication and resources.

Of particular concern in the area of people was the recruitment of referees with the objective, to “allocate resources needed to grow the pool of referees, overhaul the culture of respect towards them and improve officiating standards”.

In the games area, the need to review the GAA’s relationship with the educational sector is acknowledged in the objective.

“Evaluate the association’s purpose, role, and impact in the education sector to help schools and further and higher education institutions promote Gaelic games and strengthen relationships which foster mutual support and investment.”

In that same section there is the undertaking to: “Provide needs-based investment to promote and develop hurling in the Division Two and Three hurling counties”.

Until this report, the GAA had updated its strategic plan every three years but the decision was taken to extend the planning interval to five years from when the previous one had elapsed in 2021.

It is described as being informed as the GAA’s biggest consultation to date: 15,000 surveys, 150 individual and 80 group submissions and 12 focus groups.

“Plans such as this are destined for dusty shelves,” said Ryan in his introduction to the plan, “if they do not have the buy-in required from those whom it is intended will benefit from organisation-wide improvement.

“To that end the engagement we had during the initial consultative phase of the process was hugely encouraging and insightful.

“We were thrilled to receive over 15,000 responses to our public strategy survey which was expertly analysed by KPMG’s business intelligence unit, and 230 semi-structured submissions outlining the long-term hopes and dreams of our key stakeholders for growing Gaelic games.”

The plan will be overseen by an implementation committee and subject to a halfway review in 2024.

Steering Group: Larry McCarthy (GAA president), Tom Ryan (GAA director general), Ruairí Harvey (GAA organisation development manager), Shane Flanagan (Johnstownbridge, Kildare), Paul Foley (Patrickswell, Limerick), Pat Gilroy (St Vincent's, Dublin), Prof David Hassan (St Mary's, Derry), Dr Elish Kelly (Pádraig Pearses, Roscommon), Conor McCarthy (O'Donovan Rossa, Cork), Tim Murphy Brosna, (Kerry).

Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times

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