In case you missed it, the GPA had quite the tea party in Boston last Friday evening, writes John Fogarty.
With tables going for as much as $50,000, the wine flowed as the greenbacks mounted in their second such dinner in the city. The GPA’s fundraising endeavours Stateside last account year came to almost €650,000 and it wouldn’t be a surprise if something similar is on the cards this time around.
Not bad for an organisation without a chief executive. They’re a little short-staffed in Santry at the moment having lost Dermot Earley, a players development manager and their public relations officer in the last four months (there’s also a chief operations officer vacancy).
Maybe it was for that reason that Dessie Farrell and Dónal Óg Cusack were prominent at the event. According to the GPA website, Farrell does not have an official role in the organisation anymore but then the pair were among the founding fathers, would have fostered relations in the US and Farrell provided a speech at the event.
NFL Players Association chief executive DeMaurice Smith was guest of honour. It was reported in Boston that he would “address the Boston Friends of the GPA about the importance of supporting amateur athletes”.
Smith earns almost $2.4 million per annum in his position as head of one of the most powerful unions in professional sport.
Dare we say, Smith, who was instrumental in representing players during the NFL Lockout in 2011, knows as much about supporting amateur athletes as we do about negotiating collective bargaining agreements.
The GPA have done extremely well to make friends with Irish-American captains of industry but then many of those are also the ones who counties here, and the GAA in the US, also turn to.
The official inter-county body say otherwise, insisting they target those who wouldn’t necessarily be considered GAA donors in corporate America. But that isn’t entirely true.
On the 2012 All-Stars football trip to New York, which coincided with the inaugural GPA gala event in the city, journalists were briefed on how the players’ body aimed to raise funds for their services.
Renowned publican and Leitrim-born Mike Carty was identified as one of the individuals on the GPA radar. Carthy has long been a significant patron to GAA in New York and in Ireland. A prominent New York lawyer, who contributes to the GPA, also lends support to a leading inter-county hurling team.
After next month’s Connacht preliminary round game against Leitrim, New York will reconstruct their buildings in Gaelic Park, an initiative which will require a hefty amount of finance. With that in mind, board chairman Laurence McGrath recently called on counties to back off their turf for a while.
“I would like all these counties and the GPA to give us a break for two years,” he told Newstalk last month.
“We have to raise close to $3m ourselves here and it’s only fair because if we went to Ireland as the New York board and tried to raise $3m I don’t think we would be welcome.
It won’t be long before Kerry are back over, though, and the GPA will return to the Big Apple soon enough. Wexford were over in February and other counties have plans to do the same in the coming weeks.
The US board have attempted to put some rein on the practice by asking counties to get in contact with the divisional boards in the US where they go cap in hand and make a contribution.
In his inaugural address to Congress in February, new GAA president John Horan spoke about the need for counties who are looking towards “this growing overseas GAA network for support” to “show some respect to the GAA communities in these cites and show them support also”.
He later expanded in a press conference: “If you go over there and you pull a five-figure sum and you walk away with it all you’ve done well so why not leave a residue at the base where you were. We can’t legislate for that but I’m just asking people to examine their own conscience.”
When the GPA are profiting from it, the Super 11s is hardly giving something back. Making such declarations, the GPA must also be on the radar of Horan, who was part of the GAA’s negotiating team when the last deal with the players’ body was inked.
Their activity raises both eyebrows, one for stymying the fundraising efforts of the GAA in the US and counties and the other for the nature of these corporate pursuits.
“We aim big,” was former CEO Earley’s claim when defending a similar GPA dinner in New York.
The question is how big?
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved