Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley has been confirmed as the main benefactor from the GAA-GPA backed gaelicboots.com website.
Established last November, the company is listed as an Irish one based in John Rogerson’s Quay in Dublin. However, the Irish Examiner has discovered its company number, VAT number and shareholders are Ashley’s English-based sportsdirect.com.
Although it operates out of Eurobase in Waterford’s IDA Industrial Park, the directors named in company registration documents are David Forsey, chief executive of Sports Direct International PLC, and Barry Leach, head of brands division at the retailer.
Forsey has over 160 current directorships with Leach possessing 29. Ashley, who is also a shareholder in Scottish club Rangers, currently holds 64% of Sports Direct which, in 2011, reported profits of €98m (£83.2m).
The GAA’s involvement with the UK’s leading sports retailer raises questions about whether the organisation is being true to its core values. Rule 1.4 (d) of the GAA’s Official Guide states “the Association shall use all practical endeavours to support Irish Industry especially in relation to the provision of trophies and playing gear and equipment”.
Armagh Central Council delegate Jarlath Burns has raised concerns about Sports Direct’s involvement in a GAA-backed commercial development.
In yesterday’s Irish Examiner, Mayo footballer and shoe shop manager Donal Vaughan admitted the enterprise is set to affect his business and questioned what inter-county players will gain from gaelicboots.com.
“I’m not anti-competition and I’d support anything that offers good value and the GPA are endorsing it but I’ll be honest and say I don’t know will we ever see anything out of it, to be fair,” he said.
“We receive our grant but most lads that get anything out of the GPA are the lads based in Dublin, to be fair.”
The GAA and GPA have pointed out the initiative will help generate funding for player welfare and development programmes.
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