O’Neill: We will hold the line on rules

The GAA has wasted no time in bringing their new audit register of inter-county managers into operation.

County boards have until the end of the year to furnish Croke Park with details of all inter-county management personnel, plus how they are remunerated for expenses and the amount of training sessions done.

Contrary to reports, management will not be asked for their Personal Public Service (PPS) numbers.

However, the GAA will employ the services of external auditors to conduct spot-checks on county boards to ensure they are complying with the register.

Punishment for a breach of the GAA’s amateur status (rule 1.10) is a six-month suspension or expulsion.

The register is the GAA’s attempt to curb illegitimate payments to inter-county managers after county boards gave director general Páraic Duffy the go-ahead to use all of his power to preserve the voluntary ethos of the Association.

“We’re saying this can be done now — there’s no point in delaying it,” said GAA president Liam O’Neill. “It needs to be done, it should be done so let’s do it. The rule is the rule. It’s the duty of the president and Central Council to uphold the rules of the organisation and we will uphold the rules of the organisation.

“Because we value that rule so much and because the counties and Central Council wrote back saying they wanted the rule we’re taking the bull by the horns. If someone comes up with a better idea or a way to improve it by modifying it, then we’re quite happy to do it but the bottom line is counties have to be aided to keep the rules.”

However, after county boards voted in a two-month winter moratorium on inter-county training only for several of them to flout it, there are doubts about just how viable the register will be.

O’Neill admitted a lot of it depends on the honesty of county board officials.

“Anybody who gives their time voluntarily is to some extent an idealist. The important thing here is that we wanted to give a lead. We were being proactive, we were asked to do something. Certainly, you could dodge it, sweep it under the carpet and ignore it and say ‘it’s none of our business, it’s up to the counties to do it’. But that’s not leadership.

“What we’re saying is there is a need to be compliant with our rules and we’re saying also that it’s not always easy. We’re also saying we’ll sit down and put a document together to help you with that.”

County boards will also be giving the benefit of flagging to Croke Park any arrangements which they feel may be problematic before submitting their register.

But O’Neill is adamant that in no way can rule 1.10 be contravened.

“There’s wriggle room on everything except the basic amateur status code. That’s vital — we hold the line on that.

“If our document is weak in any section and if we haven’t provided the back-up that’s needed by counties then yes we are prepared to modify that.

“We’re setting out the means by which we can do it and the roles that everybody has. We’re setting out the means by which we reimburse legitimate expenses or if we have to pay for expertise the means by which we do that and that has to be above board and has to be tax compliant.”

On Saturday, O’Neill indicated that counties may have to share fitness and dietician experts in future to combat rising costs.

He added: “We’re asking the counties to keep tabs on training sessions to help them with budgeting and if they’re unsure about the legitimacy of some practice they’re involved in that they come to us and we’ll give the best advice available.

“We’re sending out people to do spot checks to examine accounts held by counties to aid them and give them advice, validate them if they’re doing it properly and make recommendations on how to conduct their business better.”

O’Neill acknowledged the economic downturn has contributed to some self-regulation in how county boards now do their business.

“In times of stringency and when every penny counts, there is no doubt people and companies make better decisions.”


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