Cork County Board chairman Bob Ryan has called on clubs in urban areas to reinvent themselves or run the risk of becoming outdated.
Ryan said participation in Cork city and surrounding satellite towns had fallen in recent times and that clubs must adopt a fresh approach to not only halt the slide, but to draw in families with no GAA background.
“The drop-off in involvement in the city is something we have to give serious consideration to,” he noted
“Take for example Glen Rovers, a club with a massive tradition. People who would have been involved with the club 30 and 40 years ago have moved on and they are living in different parts of the city. New people coming in might not be absorbed into the club like 30 or 40 years ago. What we want to do is reinvigorate new people into these areas and get them involved — bring people in with no tradition in the GAA.”
Denis Coughlan chairs the urbanisation committee tasked with increasing participation in built-up areas and the former Cork dual star accepts that while the population of satellite towns rose significantly over the past five decades, GAA involvement stagnated.
“We know the population of Cork has grown by 50% in the last 50 years, while the satellite towns around the city have grown by multiples of that figure. Take for example Ballincollig, Carrigaline, Midleton, Mallow. You are talking populations in excess of 16,000 people. I think it is fair to say that while the population was increasing in certain urban areas, GAA involvement was not.
“Sport in general is being affected in the sense that it is not growing with the population. That is the challenge for the urbanisation committee to help and guide each club to re-establish themselves as the primary sport in the community it serves. It used to be that way before, but (with) the growth of populations and the movement of people, we are trying to encourage clubs to re-establish themselves in their own communities, not just in the big towns but in the city also. In Blackpool, Glen Rovers need to re-establish themselves, Blackrock the same, the ’Barrs the same.”
The seven-strong committee will assist clubs in the New Year with the introduction of underage street-leagues and inter-club over-35 competitions, two initiatives which Coughlan believes will address falling participation.
“If we can get all the clubs in large urban areas to buy into the street-leagues I think not alone would it be good for the club long-term, it will bring the parents into the club, it will make them aware of what the club is doing for them.
“The over-35 competitions would have a two-fold effect. First of all players that have retired and are not playing competitively any more, they would remain part of the club.
“They are at an age also where they might have young boys and girls who are keen to play in the street-leagues.”
Coughlan said clubs have been asked to appoint a strategic planner to incorporate these ideas into their strategic plan for the next four years with an annual review to see what progress, if any, is being made.
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