The longer the Liam Miller situation plays out, the more the GAA look like dinosaurs
When former Wicklow manager Johnny Magee proposed a strike action in the wake of the “Super 8” proposal being passed last year, former GAA general-director Páraic Duffy dismissed Magee's proposal and said he could go onto Twitter and see similar remarks if he wanted to feel annoyed.
“I could go onto Twitter this evening and get any number of those (remarks). We’re not going to run the GAA by Twitter. If you keep asking me those kind of questions, I’m going to look as if I’m annoyed, which I probably am. If that’s what I’m going to get down to answering — Johnny Magee’s call — that’s his right. It’s a free country so he’s entitled to do that. As are all these other people.”
Fast-forward 18 months and you wonder if the GAA's stance has changed much?
This year alone there has been the issue of Dublin's two home games at Croke Park, and Donegal's request for clarification on why the three-time defending All-Ireland champions were granted two games at headquarters when every other team in the Super 8 series had just the single home game.
There was the Newbridge or Nowhere campaign, the opening weekend of the Super 8 series clashing with the World Cup final, GAA President John Horan claiming that the association couldn't legislate for a clash with the World Cup final, despite details of the time and location of the biggest game in world sport being made available to the public seven months in advance.
Then there was Clare and Wexford having to play an All-Ireland quarter-final in Páirc Uí Chaoimh in Cork, when there was little desire from either county to play there, which was then followed by the decision to deny organisers of the Liam Miller memorial match use of Páirc Uí Chaoimh, when there was overwhelming desire to see the game played there.
Sorry, I'll amend that, the GAA offered to provide hospitality facilities at the venue free gratis to assist fundraising efforts around the Liam Miller Tribute Match.
However, they also added that they had sought legal advice around funding received towards the redevelopment of Páirc Uí Chaoimh, after it was highlighted on Twitter, among other places, that the GAA may have been in breach of the terms and conditions attached to the redevelopment of the stadium.
Department of Sport officials believe the GAA is in breach of the terms and conditions attached to the €30 million in government funding that went to redeveloping Páirc Uí Chaoimh. https://t.co/tyGvCMtRkQ
— Hugh O'Connell (@oconnellhugh) July 22, 2018
Their statement on the use of Páirc Uí Chaoimh, which can be read in full here, stated that the GAA is prohibited in rule from hosting games other than those under the control of the Association in its stadia and grounds and that the Cork County Committee and Central Council had no discretion in the matter.
They also wished the event organisers of the memorial 'every success in their endeavours' knowing full well that they had just significantly undercut the amount of money that could be raised for the Miller family by relegating the match to Turner's Cross, which holds just 7,000 people compared to the 45,000 that Páirc Uí Chaoimh sits.
The backlash was rampant.
Cork City forward Karl Sheppard said that the decision was 'wrong & shameful' from the GAA. His teammate Steven Beattie said that the GAA were a disgrace. Cork footballer Jamie Wall said that their statement was 'callous' and questioned who the GAA had to answer to if they broke their own rules.
Of course, all of these statements, along with a myriad of others like them, were first published on Twitter.
The GAA may not want to run their association based on what is said on Twitter but you'd like to think that the online reaction to their statement played a significant part in the association agreeing to meet with organisers of the Liam Miller memorial match just three days later. That or someone in the association had a moment of enlightenment and all of a sudden discovered the difference between right and wrong.
The fact that they even held a meeting with the organisers showed that there rules are not exactly set in stone. A strict adherence to the rules and a disregard for common sense is where the GAA consistently finds itself fighting a losing battle with the public.
The GAA can afford to stand by their rules, after all they are the governing body that drew them up and they are the only organisation with the power to change them when and where they see fit, but to those on the outside of the organisation it's a constant source of befuddlement.
The GAA saw Diarmuid Connolly's push on linesman Ciaran Branigan as a breach of a category V offence; minor physical interference with a linesman (or other official). The public largely saw a 12 week ban for a player who pushed an official on the chest as 'excessive'.
Kildare thought they were entitled to a home game against Mayo in accordance with rule 6.28, but a meeting of the GAA’s Central Competitions Control Committee (CCCC) later decided that the capacity at St Conleth’s, their only nominated ground, was not suitable for “health and safety” reasons and that in accordance with 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."
GAA Director of Communications Alan Milton insisted that safety was behind the game being moved to Croke Park but the public reaction was tied up in issues of favouritism, a bigger gate for Croke Park and to appease Sky Sports, who had arranged a double header at headquarters.
And these weren't conspiracy theories that were drummed up by faceless avatars on Twitter, they were real questions that were put directly to Milton by RTE GAA commentator Marty Morrissey.
"Categorically no" - The GAA director of communications Alan Milton states money or TV did not motivate their initial decision to choose Croke Park to host Kildare's game. pic.twitter.com/rpcFzNx4q4
— RTÉ GAA (@RTEgaa) June 27, 2018
The GAA said they were handtied by their own rules with regards to the Miller match and the public went after them.
'Archaic. Scandalous. Fucking dinosaurs'.
Former Ireland international Damien Duff is responsible for the last tag. Duff generally shies away from the media spotlight but he absorbed it here and wanted to make it absolutely clear that that was exactly how he felt about the decision makers within the GAA.
Spoke to Damien Duff yesterday
Before we finished, he told me to make sure I got this message across about certain people in the GAA - "They're fucking dinosaurs"https://t.co/83k3dn9w1R
— david kelly (@dk3lly) July 24, 2018
They say perception is reality and when you have one of Ireland's most successful athletes call those within your organisation 'a bunch of fucking dinosaurs' that perception can tend to stick.
Duff wasn't just flying off the handle either, his criticism aligns with the views of Sheppard, Beattie and Wall, and resonated with a significant number of others around the country, not just those who choose to air their views on Twitter.
When a prominent name like Duff comes out and is so blatant and deliberate with his criticism it puts pressure on the GAA to react. Strong criticisms, from big personalities, generally drives public pressure, not that this particular cause needed anymore momentum, but what the GAA does from here could be the difference between damage control and a full blown disaster.
The GAA have just had a meeting about a meeting pic.twitter.com/D1ysw3Q6OM
— Conán Doherty (@ConanDoherty) July 24, 2018
The GAA's latest meeting with the organisers of the Liam Miller memorial basically confirmed that there was an open and constructive meeting between the two sides and that another meeting within the GAA will be initiated to discuss the openness and constructive nature of the last meeting and to consider the benefits of an unspecified proposal.
Ultimately the GAA write their own rules. They have the power to amend them at congress and they can call on a special congress to accelerate the process where they see fit.
The GAA don't want to run their association on Twitter, which is fair, but then again, if they went on the platform to see how their decision to review the Miller case at congress was received they could at least examine some of the feedback.
They would see the polls that show that over 90% of people are in favour of the game being moved to Páirc Uí Chaoimh. They would see Joe Brolly highlighting that the game does not in fact cause conflict with their rules. They would see that 'Liam Miller' is still trending nearly a week after the story broke and they should see that they still have a massive problem in front of them.
Rule 5.1 (a) allows GAA pitches to be used for "purposes not in conflict with the aims and objects of the association.." So, the Liam Miller game could easily be sanctioned. In any event, the penalty for a breach is discretionary R5.1(b) so a blind eye should be turned.
— Joe Brolly (@JoeBrolly1993) July 20, 2018
The problem with the GAA is that they don't often see what everyone else sees. They didn't see that denying the memorial match of a cancer victim at Pairc Ui Chaoimh was an issue, so they denied the game.
They didn't see that referring to their own rules and seeking legal advice to justify their denial was an issue and you'd probably bet that they don't see an issue in dragging this situation out even further when they had the perfect chance to do the right thing on Tuesday and move the game to Pairc Ui Chaoimh this afternoon.
All the evidence is there for them. There is flexibility within their rules to allow this, there is overwhelming support for the game to be moved and it's the right thing to do.
But if you don't see that you're wrong, how can you ever be expected to make things right?