The dawn of a whole new era
Payment to players is agreed in principle at central council
It's onwards and upwards in relation to the payment of grants to inter-county footballers and hurlers following the decision by Central Council at the week-end to endorse in principle the agreement reached between the GAA, the GPA and the Irish Sports Council last month.
Fears that a number of delegates may have been swayed following the strong lobby against the grant payments during last week proved largely unfounded although it is understood that some dissenting voices were raised at the Croke Park meeting which has effectively heralded the dawn of a new era within the GAA.
Central Council's approval of the concept came with qualifications, though, not least of which is a desire to see all parties involved in the agreement consent to the insertion of an amendment calculated to protect the amateur status of the Association for the future.
The amendment reads: "All parties recognise that the GAA is an amateur organisation and state their absolute commitment to the amateur of the Association. They state that nothing in this agreement shall be allowed to undermine the amateur status of Gaelic games."
Accusations that the grants scheme struck at the fabric of the Association had been levelled in the run-up to the Central Council meeting, many emanating from Ulster, which GPA chief executive Dessie Farrell hinted housed " malcontents".
But it would appear that GAA chiefs are satisfied that the agreement does not constitute a threat to the future well-being of what is the country's biggest sporting body. However, the fact that serious concerns have been expressed in relation to what is perceived as a threat to the status quo has prompted Central Council to urge all clubs and counties "to consider their compliance with the relevant rules and regulations and to submit their views and proposals prior to a full discussion on the preservation of our amateur status by the Management Committee and Central Council."
It would certainly appear that Central Council is urging all units of the Association to examine their consciences in relation to their adherence to the Corinthian spirit which has been the undoubted bedrock of the Association since its founding in 1884.
There have been both overt and covert allegations recently that a number of club managers, particularly in Ulster, are being paid excess 'expenses' while throughout the country as a whole the rules governing payments to club and county managers are being flaunted to some extent.
By the same token, some of the most high-profile managers continue to undertake what is now regarded as a 24/7 job simply for the love of the sport – and yes, several of them are from Ulster.
Central Council has moved quickly and decisively, too, to eradicate a potentially dangerous sticking point in relation to the agreement.
A number of county boards had expressed disquiet that they were to be burdened with the actual policing and administration of the grants to players but it appears this will now be done from Croke Park. Part of the wording of the motion formally approved by Central Council included the text: "The agreement is approved in principle subject to the establishment of an acceptable, centralised system for disbursement of funding, Recognising a concern expressed at various levels of the Association, Central Council agrees that disbursement will not be made directly through County Boards and that details of a centralised system for disbursement, when finalised, will be presented to Central Council for approval."
While some County Boards had indicated that they were prepared to wash their hands of any involvement in the policing of the grants scheme, others intimated that they would be seeking clarification as to just what their duties might be.
But they are now to be spared any responsibilities in relation to the logistics of the grants payments although county officials may yet be asked to confirm if the various players in both codes eligible for grants do, in fact, meet the necessary criteria laid down in the agreement.
The format, analysis and transparency of the grants scheme are certain to be monitored both officially and unofficially.