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Data protection fears put GAA manager proposal in doubt

The GAA could run foul of data protection legislation if they proceed with their favoured weapon in the renewed war against 'illegal' payments to team managers.

Over the last two weeks county boards have been voting solidly in favour of the option which proposes retaining the current regulations but enforcing them vigorously, something which has not happened in the past.



That would require managers and others involved with teams at club and county level signing up with a new GAA Registration and Audit Board on a formal basis at the start of each year.



They would also have to provide detailed personal information, including PPS numbers for those in the Republic and National Insurance details in the Six Counties.



While county boards have been voting in favour of stricter application of existing rules, concerns are being expressed over the requirement to provide PPS or National Insurance numbers to a sporting organisation which has an amateur code as its central ethos.



The proposal, drafted as part of a suite of options to tackle illegal payments to managers, does not specify why it's necessary to provide a PPS/National Insurance number, which could lead to data protection issues.



Gary Davis, deputy data protection commissioner, said that, in general terms, any request for a PPS number must be accompanied by a precise explanation as to why it's required.



"If you don't tell people the purpose, they could have legitimate concerns. If it's being sought for the purpose of returns to Revenue, that has to be clearly explained in advance and can be used for nothing else," he said.



If the GAA proceed with attempts to gather the PPS/National Insurance numbers of everybody involved with county and club teams, they are likely to meet with stern opposition. The vast majority of those associated with teams are not even paid the most basic expenses and could feel deeply unhappy at being asked for such information.



The PPS/NI requirement may have to be dropped from the proposal, which now looks certain to become the agreed roadmap for the next move forward.



GAA director general Paraic Duffy offered various options in a lengthy document issued last month, including making official payments to managers, strictly enforcing the current rules or allowing the loose, unregulated system which has applied for years to continue.



Enforcing the rules has emerged as the clear favourite among counties, but it now remains to be seen how it can be packaged so that the many loopholes which made a mockery of the regulations in the past are closed off, while, at the same time, not introducing demands which are overly intrusive.



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