One of the major drivers behind the decision in 2005 to amend Rule 42 has expressed his relief that the GAA’s intention to further relax its property regulation stops short of opening club pitches to other sports.
Central Council has put forward a motion to Congress in Wexford tomorrow asking that it be given permission in exceptional circumstances to make GAA property available for “activities other than those controlled by the Association” but only in venues owned by provinces or county boards.
Former Roscommon chairman Tommie Kenoy, who drafted the first motion to open Croke Park to other sports, said the idea of allowing other sports to use GAA club property was “a red-line issue” and has commended Central Council for recognising as much.
“I would draw the line when it comes to the club,” he said. “I would fight against an amendment to include club property tooth and nail because the local ground is huge to the local club and where you get one or two soccer clubs in the same parish as the GAA club, really you’re fighting for the hearts and minds of the young people of the parish.
“I would see that as a red-line issue but in terms of national, provincial and county grounds on a once-off basis after due consideration by Central Council, I would see no problem with that.”
Kilmore clubman Kenoy, who is also a member of the Club Players Association’s national committee, had always been in favour of the GAA making provincial and county grounds available to other sports on a case-by-case basis.
That it took the Liam Miller tribute game to force Central Council to amend the property control rule was unfortunate and Kenoy believes Croke Park was harshly treated before an interpretation was agreed on so that the match could go ahead in Páirc Uí Chaoimh last September.
“Technically speaking, Central Council and the authorities were correct in their initial interpretation of the rule. The scope wasn’t there to do it, so had they ratified it without convening a meeting and doing it officially then they would have justifiably been accused of breaking the GAA’s rule,” he said.
“But it did generate a degree of unfair publicity towards the authorities in Croke Park.”
Looking back on the evolution of the GAA relaxing its property rules, Kenoy believes two major factors have been at play.
“If you look back at the Rule 42 campaign, we felt we had a state-of-the-art stadium that lay idle for six months every year and we wanted to see its commercial value fully exploited. That’s where it came from originally.
“While the debate was going on from 2001 to 2005 when it was amended, Lansdowne Road fell into disrepair and had to be closed down.
“That gave the momentum then to act like good Irishmen and not have Irish teams playing home games in Twickenham or wherever.
“What followed that then was the fact we did accumulate €36m net profit from the three years of use, and when it was permanently amended in 2010, there was very little opposition because ‘money talks’, as they say.
“The next event that was really telling was when we got behind the Rugby World Cup bid. A motion was passed giving Central Council the authority to make decisions around the use of GAA stadia for an event like that. It made complete common sense because if the World Cup was to come to this island why would we not use a stadium as magnificent as Croke Park or other big GAA grounds to facilitate it?”
The motion this weekend, numbered 19, is one of 40 in total that will be debated tomorrow at Congress in Clayton Whites Hotel in Wexford town.
However, there are indications that some of the nine proposals put forward by clubs via their county conventions may be withdrawn.
Five of those pertain to age grades, although a couple of them are in conflict with an earlier Central Council proposal, while Kilkenny also faces opposition from a Central Council motion regarding the dates of All-Ireland senior inter-county finals.
GAA director general Tom Ryan’s first report and the 2018 financial report will be presented and discussed in the opening session of Congress this evening, before president John Horan makes his inaugural Congress address (as convening president) tomorrow.