Páraic Duffy says GAA must fight to retain amateur status

In his annual report the outgoing director general said GAA must decide what it is

Páraic Duffy, GAA Director General, at the publication of his annual report at Croke Park. Photo: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Páraic Duffy, GAA Director General, at the publication of his annual report at Croke Park. Photo: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

 

Outgoing GAA director general Páraic Duffy has said that the organisation must “fight to retain” its amateur status and stop turning a blind eye towards illegal payments made to managers.

At the release of his annual report at Croke Park, Duffy made a number of references towards an issue that he has been very vocal on since he took up the position in 2010.

Among the main points in the 20,000 word report were:

  • Dublin should not be split in two and forced to field separate football teams.
  • County boards must put the needs of their clubs ahead of the demands of their county managers.
  • The naming of dummy teams by managers should be stamped out.
  • There are ‘compelling arguments’ for developing a tiered All-Ireland Senior Football Championship that would give every county a chance of success.

Seven years ago he circulated a paper on the subject but admits in the report that it did not have the desired effect with many club and county managers still receiving back-of-the-hand payments for their services while players remain strictly amateur.

However, Duffy made it clear that he was not leaving the position with any regrets, including the lack of movement on the issue of payments.

I’d like to see it moving on and us addressing it,” he said at Croke Park.

“It’s not something that will be addressed within the term of the next president or maybe the term of the next Árd Stiúrthóir so it will take time. What I would like to see is a serious debate because I don’t think it was the last time. I referenced in the report a particular meeting in Croke Park in 2010 and I don’t think we seriously debated it. That’s all I’m saying. It’s not a particular frustration, just an issue we need to address. That’s all.”

Throughout the report Duffy makes reference to the amateur status of the GAA and that it is imperative the organisation retains that ethos in all facets if it still wants to stay away from professionalism.

“It’s down to the members of the GAA to decide what sort of an association they want in the future. I know this is really tough because we are swimming against the tide here. Sport is all about professionalism, the sports we read about everyday in the newspaper, soccer, rugby, American sports, whatever. It’s all about professionalism and getting paid. Money rules so it’s difficult,” he told reporters.

“But if you want to retain that position, you have to fight to retain it. It’s not about rules and regulations. It’s about the association coming to a position in keeping with our amateur status. If you don’t like them, why not change the rules on amateur status and say we’re not amateur. We’re semi-professional.

“I don’t believe anyone in the GAA wants to go there but if you want to remain amateur you have to do what it takes. It’s a cultural change, a state of mind, an attitude – how important amateurism is to us.”

In a lengthy 20,000 word report, Duffy also dismisses suggestions of splitting Dublin in two and forcing the All-Ireland champions to field two separate football teams.

While the capital county have many advantages over most of those around them, Duffy doesn’t see them as dominating the championship and believes other counties are well capable of overtaking them.

“In achieving their five All-Ireland titles in the past seven years, the margin of victory was a single point in four finals (one after a replay) and a three-point victory over Kerry in 2015.

“This hardly constitutes evidence of a county stream-rolling over all opposition, or proof of the need to divide a county because it is vastly superior to the rest and must be broken up into two or three divisions for inter-competition.

“The history of our games, and of sport in general, tells us that Dublin won’t win forever. Apart from that, there are a couple of observations to be made.

“First, the main reason for Dublin’s current success is that they have an outstanding group of players and an exceptional team management.

“One of the reasons why Dublin footballers generate support is that they give Dubliners a unique opportunity to celebrate their proud Dublin identity.

“While it may well be a mild and humorous northside/southside divide in Dublin, this geographical affiliation comes nowhere near matching the passionate identification of all Dubliners with their team.

“One is led to wonder if the ‘divide Dublin’ proponents have given any thought to what the GAA would lose if Dublin were to be split. Have they given any thought to what Dubliners would lose?

“And is the sight of Dublin supporters on Hill 16 not one of the great spectacles in Irish sport? And are we not all looking forward to seeing Dublin supporters in their thousands heading out to Dublin city to follow their team, which the championship format from 2018 will allow?

“So, neither on competitive grounds, nor on account of the unfairness of depriving Dubliners of the pleasure of expressing their local historical identity through the GAA (as every other GAA supporter is allowed to do) should we countenance the splitting up of Dublin.

“There is all to lose in doing so, and nothing to gain,” warns Duffy.

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