they should be told to fuck off & die
GAA firm on who pays players’ grants
This week’s remarks by the Minster for Arts Sports and Tourism, Martin Cullen TD, suggesting that the GAA might be asked to meet part of the costs of the players grants scheme, introduced last year, continue to cause anger in Croke Park.
New association president Christy Cooney responded on Wednesday to the ministers speech in the Dil the previous day by issuing a firm statement reaffirming that responsibility for the funding of the grants still lies with the department.
Documents back up the GAAs case that the scheme, which caused considerable controversy at the time of its agreement and ratification by Central Council, was intended to be funded by the state alone.
In section 11 of the agreement between the GAA, the Gaelic Players Association and the late Samus Brennan, Cullens predecessor in the department, entitled Miscellaneous Provisions it is stated that: The schemes are additional to and will not negatively impact upon existing funding or any future funding provided by the Government to the GAA through the Irish Sports Council or otherwise.
This was insisted on at the time by Croke Park, which was trying to reassure its membership that the scheme would not come out of the associations coffers.
One years funding has been paid out under the scheme at the end of 2008, but in the worsening economic conditions it was always envisaged that public funding would come under pressure.
Deputy Cullen is the third minister to have dealt with this matter. Originally a stand-off had been reached between the GAA and then minister John ODonoghue, who left the department after the general election of 2007. His successor Samus Brennan moved to resolve the issue and agreement was reached at the end of 2007.
His decision to retire because of ill health last year brought the current minister into the department. Minister Cullen is not regarded as having the same interest in sport but officials within his department are known to be opposed to the scheme.
In answer to Tuesdays Dil question, from Mayo football manager and Fine Gael spokesperson on sport John OMahony, about the future of the grants, the minister said that the funding was a matter for the Irish Sports Council, which would consider it at its meeting on May 12th. But his tone was not optimistic.
The taxpayer cannot continue to pick up the entire cost of this scheme in drastically changed economic circumstances. I am trying to be fair and I am not saying No. However, I am clearly signalling that the resources required to continue the scheme at the level previously anticipated are not there.
I place that in juxtaposition with the huge earning capacity of the three major sporting organisations, which the taxpayer helped to fund, and I ask who has the primary responsibility in this area.
The taxpayer has, rightly, provided huge resources to the three major sporting bodies, particularly in Croke Park, Lansdowne Road and Thomond Park. That has allowed those bodies to generate enormous profits. They have the ability to generate substantial sums of money while many other organisations do not have that facility.
I pose this question. As the generosity of the taxpayer has provided so much money to those bodies, could they, perhaps, look to this matter? The GAA, for example, has stated publicly that it is, and wishes to remain, primarily responsible for player welfare.
There was additional surprise at the suggestion that the three main field sports organisations would be collectively responsible for funding the Gaelic players grants.
The GPA whose idea the whole proposal, intended as a compensatory mechanism for hurlers and footballers who, by virtue of their amateurism, would not be eligible for the tax breaks designed for professional sports people in 2002, are already on the record as accepting that they would not call on the GAA to make up the deficit should public funding be removed.