Páraic Duffy: ‘We are swimming against the professionalism tide’

As he called on the GAA to once again review its amateur status, GAA director general Páraic Duffy accepted the organisation are “swimming against the tide” of professionalism in sports.

Eight years ago, Duffy produced a discussion document in which he outlined several options after which counties chose to maintain their commitment to the amateur status.

He was disappointed that there was little in the way of debate, which he hoped the paper would instigate.

Now, he fears the issue of payments to coaches and managers is more serious than it was in 2010 and has called for the discussion to be resurrected.

While he accepted many members are against paying managers, he pointed out “no-one seems able to stop the practice”.

He wrote: “It may be bruising and may take time, but it will provide an opportunity to begin to change the existing payments culture and to come to a position consistent with our declared values.

“I wrote in 2010 that the choice facing the Association was a simple one: Either we do nothing in the certain knowledge that nothing will change and that in five or 10 years we would still be lamenting the damage to our ethos and values — or we decide that it would be irresolute and defeatist not to confront directly a practice that we proclaim to be a blemish on the Association.

“The choice is the same one now, and the need to address it even greater.”

At yesterday’s press conference, Duffy reiterated his hope that the GAA either reflects the reality that exists in several clubs and counties or goes about practising what it preaches. “It’s down to the members of the GAA to decide what kind of an organisation they want into the future. I know this is really tough because we are swimming against the tide here. Sport is all about professionalism, we read it every day in the newspapers whether it’s soccer or rugby or American sport, whatever, it’s all about professionalism and players getting paid. So we are trying to do something that’s quite different. Because money rules. So it’s difficult.

“But if you want to retain that position, then you have to fight to retain it. It’s not about rules and regulations. The association publishes a constitution that is in keeping with our amateur status. If you don’t, why not change the rules on amateur status? Say we’re not amateur actually, we’re professional. Now, I don’t believe anybody in the GAA wants to go there. But if you want to remain amateur you have to do what it takes. It’s a cultural change. A state of mind. An attitude. How important amateurism is to us.”


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