The GAA once again disregards logic and decency in favour of conformity 2 years ago

The GAA once again disregards logic and decency in favour of conformity

Rules are rules and they have to be obeyed. Or at least that's what we're led to believe.

The GAA are a stifler for rules. An association that strictly adheres to the rules and respects them. But before I get to the Liam Miller situation with Páirc Uí Chaoimh do you remember the Newbridge or Nowhere campaign?

Kildare's senior men's footballers were drawn to play Mayo in the third round of qualifiers for the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship last month but instead of playing at their home ground at St. Conleth's Park in Newbridge, the game was initially moved to Croke Park by the Central Competitions Control Committee after Kildare refused to nominate an alternative venue.

To be specific on the matter, rule 6.28 (2) of the GAA rulebook states that “home venues shall be used in Rounds 1, 2 and 3 of the All-Ireland qualifier series with the first team drawn having home advantage” but yet at rule 3.27, the CCCC is given responsibility “for competition scheduling and arrangements for and control of games (excluding appointment of referees) under the jurisdiction of the Central Council.”

Instead of siding with rule 6.28, Feargal McGill, the GAA’s director of games administration, issued an ultimatum to Kildare over the conflict.

“The game has been fixed for 7pm in Croke Park, and that is not going to change under any circumstances," McGill told the Irish Times on Monday, June 25.

“We fully appreciate where Kildare are coming from. We don’t take home venue off of a team lightly. However, health and safety has to come first. It’s that simple.

"The last thing we wanted to do was take this out of Newbridge, but we simply had no choice. There is no room for manoeuvre, not when it comes to health and safety.

"If Kildare don’t show up in Croke Park on Saturday at 7.0pm the game will be awarded to Mayo.”

By Wednesday, June 27, the game had been moved to St Conleth's Park in Newbridge with the GAA categorically denying that a decision to move a game - that was not going to change under any circumstances according to their director of games administration - was not based on motivation to garner extra ticket revenue, or to suit a double-header for a broadcaster, but rather in the interest of 'safety', despite assurances from local Gardai in Kildare ahead of the game that they were confident and prepared with plans to host said game in Newbridge.

In the GAA, home advantage is subject to the deliberations of the Central Competitions Control Committee so the association would have been within their right to keep the game at Croke Park, but instead, they crawled back down and moved the game back to Newbridge amid overwhelming public pressure after they were satisfied with alternative plans to accommodate traffic and for the general management for the flow of people.

There was some flexibility to the rules for the GAA. If the association wanted to play the game at Croke Park they could point to rule 3.27 and the jurisdiction of Central Council.

If they wanted to refix the game for St. Conleth's Park they could talk about added safety, even though the Gardai were already satisfied with prior safety arrangements, and go back and point to rule 6.28 concerning home advantage.

The GAA flip flop to suit their needs, just not the needs of Liam Miller and his family.

The former Ireland international passed away earlier this year after a prolonged battle with oesophogeal cancer and he will have a memorial match played in his honour in September.

Proceeds from the game will be donated to his wife Clare and his three young children Kory, Leo and Belle as well as the Marymount Hospice, where he died.

The organisers of the Miller memorial match confirmed that an approach had been made to the Cork county board with a view to hosting the match at Pairc Ui Chaoimh.

The board were understood to be receptive to the idea, however, in accordance with the GAA's rule 42, which states that grounds controlled by Association units shall not be used or permitted to be used, for horse racing, greyhound racing, or for field games other than those sanctioned by Central Council, the match will not be played at Pairc Ui Chaoimh and will instead be played at Cork City's home ground of Turner's Cross.

When Rule 42 was amended in 2005 to allow Central Council the power to authorise the use of Croke Park for games, other than those controlled by the Association, during a temporary period when Lansdowne Road Football Ground was closed for the proposed development, it was viewed as a groundbreaking moment for the GAA and a sign that they were still in touch with Irish society.

When the organisers of Liam Miller's memorial match noted that the game could not be played at Pairc Ui Chaoimh because it had to be reviewed by Congress next February, the GAA showed how out of touch with Irish society they really are.

Motions to amend rules in the association are discussed, debated and voted on at congress but occasionally the GAA will call on a special congress to amend rules.

Special congresses' have been called to abolish Rule 21, which states that 'members of the British armed forces or police shall not be eligible for membership of the Association. A member of the Association participating in dances, or similar entertainment, promoted by or under the patronage of such bodies, shall incur suspension of at least three months'.

The Special Congress of October 2006 implemented the revised football qualifier format, first introduced back in 2001, so that the bottom eight or nine teams in the country, based on league standings immediately prior to the championship, were excluded from the qualifier series, and were instead limited to the Tommy Murphy Cup.

Last year, a Special Congress was called to review motions regarding changes to the All-Ireland SHC structure, the All-Ireland MHC and on the kickouts in Gaelic football among other motions.

Liam Miller's memorial game will not go to Special Congress, at least not yet, it's still only July and the memorial match is not scheduled until September 25.

If Rule 42, and its 2005 amendment, will be reviewed it will have to be put before the delegates in a motion to be debated and voted on at congress, in accordance with GAA rules.

The problem for the GAA is that rules often circumvent common sense.

If three-time defending All-Ireland champions Dublin are granted two games at Croke Park when every other county in the All-Ireland quarter-final group stage plays one game at home, the response from the association is that a review of the first year of the new Championship structures will be held by Central Council later in the year, presumably after the championship has concluded.

If Liam Miller's memorial match is to be reviewed next year, long after the match is played, and long after a team of former Manchester United legends have left the country, what's the point?

The whole point of the game is to raise as much money as possible for the Millers and to celebrate the life of a former Ireland midfielder and a friend to many within the Irish game.

Rules are rules, and they are meant to be obeyed, but in this circumstance, when it comes to helping a family that has lost a husband and father at the age of 36, they are made to be broken. Or at least that's how it should be.