Tickets for the match featuring former Manchester United, Celtic, and Ireland stars in September were all snapped up within minutes of going on sale yesterday morning — intensifying pressure for the event to be switched from the 7,000-seater Turners Cross to the 45,000-capacity Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
Despite calls from politicians, sports stars, and a former GAA president, the association reiterated its decision to ban the fixture from taking place at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
“The GAA is prohibited in rule from hosting games other than those under the control of the Association in its stadia and grounds,” it said.
“The Cork County Committee and Central Council have no discretion in this matter.
“Only a change at annual congress can alter this situation. Congress takes place in February each year.”
The GAA is rooted in community. Liam Miller and family are of our community. Páirc Uí Chaoimh underpinned by our community. The unique event organised to reflect that community ethos and to honour Liam Miller should be held in Páirc Uí Chaoimh.— Micheál Martin (@MichealMartinTD) July 20, 2018
The Irish Examiner yesterday revealed that the Department of Transport, Tourism, and Sport said it would contact the Cork County Board about the issue amid questions over whether the ban broke conditions attached to the €30m funding the Government granted for the redevelopment of Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
The GAA said it is confident its decision does not violate European Commission conditions that the stadium “could be rented out to other field sports” and “will be open to various users on a non-discriminatory and transparent basis”.
It said: “The GAA has sought legal advice around funding received towards the redevelopment of Páirc Uí Chaoimh and believes it is compliant with the terms and conditions laid down in September 2016.”
The GAA reaffirmed its offer to provide hospitality facilities at the venue for free and said it wishes “the event organisers every success in their endeavours”.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar — who was sports minister when the €30m grant was approved in May 2014 — yesterday refused to comment on the controversy or be drawn on whether he believed the terms of the funding have been broken.
“At the moment, I might stay out of that one but I met [junior sports minster Brendan] Griffin this morning and he’s very much aware of it, but I will stay out of it for now,” Mr Varadkar told reporters in West Cork.
Speaking at the same event, Fine Gael MEP Seán Kelly, a former president of the GAA, said he believed most grassroots members of the organisation want the charity match to take place at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
“I think it is important to actually emphasise that Páirc Uí Chaoimh are not making the decision in this case,” said Mr Kelly.
“They are taking guidance from headquarters and headquarters, I understand, are saying their hands are tied, which is unfortunate, because I think the majority of the grassroots would like to see the facility being made available.”
Mr Kelly said he believes there is some room within the GAA rulebook to make the event happen.
“If it were the case [that] people would be worried that it would have a knock-on effect, what we do then is get a rule change at Congress next year specifying exactly what would be regarded as special circumstances in the future, and also what would be the procedure to get permission, which I think would probably be permission from Central Council,” he said.
The European Commission said it would not comment on that matter.
However, the terms of its approval for the funding explicitly state that open, non-discriminatory, and transparent access should be provided to the stadium, and that the Government is tasked with ensuring that such conditions are fulfilled.
Cork County Council is to suspend standing orders at its meeting on Monday morning to discuss the issue, with Fianna Fáil directly calling on the GAA to allow the event take place at the stadium.