11/01/2008

Playing for pride or for pay?

As many of you will already know Ireland claimed another victory over Australia in the Compromise Rules series. Ireland won the match 57-53 giving them victory in both legs, and over all on aggregate.

Needless to see this feat is amazing, considering that GAA players are amateurs and have managed to once again beat professional athletes one on one.

However yesterdays encounter has raised several issues,. These arise every time the event takes place. Foremost amongst these issue is the contentious issue of the GAAs amateur status. Do not get me wrong, I concede that there is no better feeling than pulling on your county or club jersey week after week. Playing for pride is in many ways a better motivational factor than playing for pay.

Personally I feel that this debate is largely a redundant, red herring debate, instigated to ease the worries of many of the traditionalists within the GAA. I personally feel it makes no difference whether players are paid an allowance or not.

Primarily I am of this view because the GAA is a multi-million Euro sports organisation. The revenue generated from gate receipts is astronomical. Add to this the ever increasing cost of merchandise, the range of which is ever expanding. I mean now you have everything from kits, to school bags to air fresheners to play station games. The monetary gains from such a range is unbelievable and I think it is futile to argue that a sport that can generate such vast amounts of revenue is genuinely amateur.

Furthermore I can not fathom why people in light of these vast amounts of revenue would begrudge players a slice of this very large and lucrative cake. Personally I know that I would feel more comfortable knowing that the players, the people who entertain the crowds week in week out, the people making the sacrifices, should reap the rewards rather than the suits at GAA HQ.

Secondly I feel that it is futile to argue that a sport is amateur in essence and spirit whenever some are very clearly profiting from it. It is categorical that some people are very clearly making money from their positions within the GAA. County managers receive monetary payments as do several club managers whilst some players receive travelling allowances. Add to this the money top players make from advertisements, TV shows and newspaper columns. They are all making money as it stands, so I do not understand how giving them a few pound for playing will drastically alter this.

I think that traditionalists advocating a retention of amateur status are living in the past and are quite frankly deluding themselves. They appear to be utterly oblivious to the fact that money is already being made in the ways outlined above. These are the same people who were arguing that the back door system was going to kill off the championship. In fact they have been proved wrong on that issue. The restructuring of the championship has only served to strengthen the GAA further, especially in the weaker counties that are no longer subjected to the ignominy of the invariable preliminary round exit.

The attraction of professionalism in sport is reverberating across the GAA. Just look at the ability of AFL clubs to poach at will the cream of the GAA’s young talent. Many are quick to lambast those tempted by the lucrative offers from AFL clubs, but personally I feel castigation is difficult to justify. Thousands of pound in a sunny climate to do something that entails sacrifice at home is difficult to resist. Martin Clarke, Kevin Dyas, and now it seems the young talent of Tyrone have been tempted away to sunnier climates. Some in the GAA in passing the buck have naturally enough blamed the AFL for the whole debacle. However if they addressed the issue of providing financial incentive to their own players they could remedy the situation themselves,

Paying players is hardly going to cause the GAA world to implode. Several issues have over the years been muted as a wreckers charter and yet they have failed to dent the GAA in any way. This is merely another bogey debate to ease the worries of the die hard traditionalists.

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