GAA director general Tom Ryan has claimed the organisation’s authorities felt they were “bullied” into hosting the Liam Miller Tribute Game in Páirc Uí Chaoimh last summer.
Careful to point out that everything to the Miller family was “secondary” and the GAA would likely have green-lighted the soccer match on their own steam had they been given the chance, Ryan hit out at the pressure that was put on the GAA to bend their own rules so that the game could be moved from the original Turners’ Cross venue last September.
In his first annual report which was released this morning, Ryan wrote: “My problem with how events unfolded concerns not the playing of any particular match (or sport) in any GAA venue, but the blatant disregard that was shown for the Association’s governance.
“We try to conduct our affairs well. Much of the clamour that arose amounted to demands for us to just ignore our own standards, and indeed our own decision makers. To ignore the rule, or find a loophole and host the game.
“As a governing body charged with trying to uphold standards, we should not be in the business of finding ways around our own rules. I personally should certainly not be. Nonetheless as the days progressed it became evident that to not ‘find a way’ would only do the Association more reputational damage, however unjustified. So that is what we did - we found a way around our own rules. That is something I am still very uncomfortable with.
“The mechanics involved identifying a legal route, establishing independently its validity, and convening at two days notice our voluntary Central Council from all around the country and overseas to a difficult meeting.
Ryan regrets how much of a distraction the issue became last July. “In hindsight we might have handled matters differently but I do believe that the GAA was badly served by much of the comment at the time. It consumed so much time and energy, and yet was not an issue of our own making.
“That week at the height of championship season benefitted hurling or football not one bit. Frustratingly, I still don’t quite know how things go to where they did. I know that the Liam Miller Organising Committee were certainly not making things difficult for us. Quite the opposite in fact. Events just seemed to take on a momentum of their own, with ever more influential people expressing ever more unhelpful and unsolicited views.
“The most disappointing aspect was that it should detract in any way from what was otherwise a very enjoyable GAA summer.”
Hitting out at the idea that future funding for GAA grounds developments should be awarded on the promise of those stadia hosting other sports, Ryan remarked: “There was an inference at the time that the GAA should be under some moral, if not legal, compulsion to allow the use of our pitches for other sports because the Association, or the specific pitch, had received public funding. This is not factually correct and is not morally defensible.
“Any funding we receive is, and should continue to be, predicated solely on the intrinsic value of Gaelic Games. I am not aware of any other sporting organisation being assessed on the degree to which it promotes rival sports. And nor should they be.”
He confirmed a motion to “address that perceived ambiguity” in the GAA’s property rules will be put to delegates at Congress in Wexford next month.