Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 25 December 2014

GAA: Park life

Kelly's Croker intervention could cause problems

GAA President Sean Kelly's intervention into the great Croke Park debate may yet prove counter productive.

He has nailed his colours to the mast insisting that the only way forward is for Headquarters to be opened up to other sports.

A number of motions echoing those views will come before the GAA's Annual Congress next Easter, but early indications are that such a motion will not attract the necessary two thirds majority.

The reality is that it will be doing well to command just over 50 per cent of the total vote and that down south, counties like Cork, Waterford and Tipperary will be strongly opposed to change.

Closer to home it's expected that Antrim, Armagh and Fermanagh will be taking a similar line.

Those calling for change are well intentioned, but they don't appear to have any real sense of direction and to be brutally honest and frank they are running the wrong campaign.

Their goal should be to allow Central Council the right to make a decision over the use of Croke Park.

The big plus about that course of action is that under Central Council rules you only need 50 per cent of the vote for change, considerably less than the 66 per cent required by Annual Congress.

Those claiming that the 2004 Annual Congress will give the thumbs up to change should consider the case of rule 21.

The year before it was passed there appeared to be massive support for it to be abolished, both in the media and within the sport itself.

But when it came to the crunch it lost out, shot down in flames by the silent majority and who's to say motions calling for Croke Park to be thrown open to other sports won't suffer a similar fate.

The GAA now finds itself being backed into a corner over the whole Croke Park affair and that may prompt the conservative element within the sport to turn their heads against change of any description.

Former GAA President Peter Quinn, a man whose vision and initiative prompted the building of the magnificent new stadium, has some very definite views on the way ahead.

"The GAA has to adopt a very pragmatic approach - that means we have to be flexible and approach the use of our resources in a way that is in the best interests of our Association and in the best national interests.

"But we cannot do that under the existing rules that prohibit us from doing certain things," he said.

Quinn agrees he will support the call for change in rule 42, but hits back at those critics who claim the GAA is preparing to sell out.

"We haven't sold out for a price yet and I'm not sure we ever will sell out. The reality is that we did a deal with the Irish Government, but there is now a proposal that we do another deal, a totally different deal.

"We did a deal with the government three years ago, but they reneaged on it. We were promised 60 million punts, the equivalent of 76 million euros. In the end we only got 38 million euros," he said.

In the circumstances it's easy to understand Quinn's relunctance to become involved in any further deals, but he's adamantly opposed to any change in rule 42 that would extend beyond Croke Park.

He added: "All I'm suggesting is that we have the flexability to make changes that are in the best interest of the Association, be they financial or strategic."

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