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Joe Kernan: Violence still a major issue facing modern game

A change is as good as a rest, they say. And it’s maybe appropriate that change is taking place at different levels in Ulster just when county team players, managers and officials are resting up during the close season.

Yet while change is the order of the day, two constants remain — the drive to erase incidents of violence from our games and the campaign to step up fund-raising bids against what is a demanding economic backdrop.

I noted that in reports to at least two county Conventions, the secretaries found it necessary to point out that there were incidents in which referees in particular had been abused while in one county two stewards apparently were the victims of violence.

This is intolerable — the vast majority of those who contribute to the GAA are volunteers and do so out of a deep love of our games. That they should be the targets of mindless thugs does no credit to the Association.

Indeed, incidents which tend to show the GAA in a poor light ultimately impact adversely on efforts to bring in the cash that is so absolutely necessary to keep the club and county wheels turning these days.

It is recognised that fund-raising is now a much more strenuous and challenging exercise because of the financial constraints. Club officials are finding that it is taking more and more money to run their operations. Not so long ago club gala banquets for which tickets were priced at £100 were commonplace and these realised huge sums from ticket sales, sponsorships, a raffle and an auction.

But that certainly does not apply now. It was said to me half-jokingly — but no doubt wholly in earnest — by someone at the weekend that if he were to be given two free tickets to a banquet or dinner now he would have to turn them down simply because this would only be his ‘passport’, as he put it, to a spending frenzy embracing hire of dress suit, cost of petrol, baby-sitting expenses, accommodation and drinks.

Is it any wonder that fund-raising is now a very fraught occupation?

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