Can 'rich' sports learn from Gaelic games?
Category: Northern Ireland
Published: 18th Mar 2010 23:51:51
When most people think of the world's great stadia, they probably have in mind the Giants Stadium in New York, Ellis Park in Johannesburg or Wembley in London.
These great theatres of entertainment are all home to professional and global sports such as American football, rugby union or soccer.
Yet there is a stadium in Dublin, which is just as large and iconic but is home to purely amateur and far less well-known sports such as hurling and Gaelic football.
With a capacity of 82,000, Croke Park oozes sporting as well as political history and it's the pride and joy of the GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) - a volunteer organisation, which doesn't pay its top players anything.
And unlike glamorous and better-funded professional sports, the GAA is also a model of financial prudence. Last year despite Ireland being in its worst recession ever, the GAA made a profit of $23m (£17m).
"We are conscious that we are an association built on a wholly voluntary movement," said Christy Cooney, president of the GAA.
"So we look after it by managing our money in a careful way and by always planning for the future. Businesses and the GAA are a partnership because they, like us, are part of the local community. And sponsors also get to identify with a quality product."
But apart from the normal sponsorship deals, the GAA's coffers have also been swollen because Croke Park has played host since 2007 to all major Irish soccer and rugby international matches while their home - Lansdowne Road - is being redeveloped.
That decision to allow non-Irish sports to be played in a GAA-owned stadium broke a century old rule and was highly politically charged - especially when England came to play.
Pride and passion
To truly understand though how the GAA has survived and thrived as an amateur game, you need to come to rural Ireland.
An hour's drive outside Dublin will bring you to the tiny village of Kiltegan. Population: 75, pubs: 2, sources of community cohesion: only one.
As soon as they can walk, they are taught to play hurling or Gaelic football. Young or old, male or female, the local GAA club is quite simply the hub of all activity in villages like this throughout the country.
In tiny hamlets like Kiltegan, there's great pride in the facilities here and achievements of its unpaid local players. Walls are adorned with players who have reached county finals or even All-Ireland finals (the World Cup final for Gaelic clubs).
They've even got a weights room, running track and a physiotherapist who rubs down bruised muscles. And his services- like all labour associated with the club - are unpaid.
In the clubhouse, children run around high on sugar with biscuity mouths.
Proud mothers bustle about with steaming pots of tea and cuts of ham or cheese sandwiches, while dads talk earnestly about players ahead of the next big under-12s game against arch rivals Rathnew.
"It's all about people putting their time and effort into the club for free," said Stephen Corrigan, a teacher who plays for Kiltegan senior Gaelic football squad.
"Whether that's in raffles or table quizzes, players as well as grandmothers regularly put their hands in their own pockets. Simply because the GAA is the only social network in a rural community - the bastion of rural life."
But how will Gaelic sports survive financially as Ireland struggles in major economic downturn?
"I think the recession has brought us back down to earth," said Stephen Corrigan.
"During the 'Celtic tiger' we forgot to be Irish. We got lost in the money."
But the tip toeing towards professionalism is nonetheless underway. Gaelic sports are not for the faint-hearted and unpaid players get some awful injuries.
So some of the country's top sportsmen and women have formed a union to get a slice of the GAA cake.
"I think players were frustrated at being asked to represent the GAA and not sharing in the commercial aspects of the game," according to Sean Potts from the Gaelic Players Association, which has recently signed an agreement with the GAA after years of hostility between the two groups.
That agreement provides for medical programmes for players who get injured as well as helping them get full academic qualifications during or after their playing career. It stops well short though of paying players.
"There had been talk that once you set off down the road to professionalism, like rugby did a few years ago, there's no turning back," said Sean Moran, GAA correspondent with the Irish Times.
"So far the GAA has resisted that but who can say whether they can in the future."
The Gaelic Athletic Association - now in its 127th year - has seen wars of independence, civil strife, multiple recessions and a Celtic Tiger boom.
Yet it has remained true to its amateur ethos in the face of growing professionalism.
Instead of the GAA aping the big professional sports, perhaps the reverse may happen.
With dozens of top soccer clubs technically insolvent (if not already bust) and the perceived decadence of some of their star players, perhaps Formula 1, rugby or soccer might learn a thing or two from amateur sports.
At 12:58:39 in EnglandA poem about the killing of PC Keith Blakelock during riots in north London was written by the man accused of his murder, a court has heard.
At 12:58:21 in SportKent have announced a pre-interest and pre-tax profit of £156,778 for the financial year to November 2013.
At 12:56:04 in ScotlandA hamster has been found abandoned inside a plastic play tube in Edinburgh.
At 12:55:09 in BusinessThe sometimes fraught relationship between leaseholders and their freeholders is going to be investigated by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT).
At 12:54:04 in HeadlinesIndia's Supreme Court has ordered the continuing detention of businessman Subrata Roy and asked his firm to come up with a plan to repay its investors.
At 12:53:21 in SportCrystal Palace winger Jason Puncheon has been fined £15,000 by the Football Association and warned about his future conduct for Twitter comments he made in relation to former boss Neil Warnock.
At 12:52:43 in HeadlinesA second witness at the murder trial of South African athlete Oscar Pistorius has told a court in the capital Pretoria she was awoken by the sounds of a fight early on 14 February 2013.
At 12:42:01 in PoliticsThere is a risk that "deliberate provocation" could give rise to a dangerous incident in Ukraine, Foreign Secretary William Hague has warned.
At 12:41:48 in EnglandA residential treatment programme for addicts which closed in Yeovil is to reopen after the charity running it merged with another organisation.
At 12:40:03 in ScotlandPolice Scotland has exceeded its target to recruit 1,000 additional officers.
Harvard CitationBBC News, 2010. Can 'rich' sports learn from Gaelic games? [Online] (Updated 18th Mar 2010)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/45554/Can-rich-sports-learn-from-Gaelic-games [Accessed 9th Mar 2014]
News In Other Categories
Apple has unveiled its new iPhone technology for cars at the Geneva Motor Show.
Two hospitals missed opportunities to take action against a consultant breast surgeon who was performing unnecessary or incomplete operations, a review has found.
Fawlty Towers star Prunella Scales has "a sort of mild Alzheimer's", her husband Tim West has revealed in the Radio Times.
The law needs to be changed to stop ticket touts overcharging fans ahead of the Rugby World Cup, an MP has said.
With the doors to its brand new £1million training centre officially open, one of the UK's leading apprentice training providers, Bristol based S&B Automotive Academy, is showcasing its world-class facilities by launching a series of foreign student exchanges for the first time in its 41-year history. To get a flavour of what life is like as an apprentice in the UK, the Academy hosted 16 apprentice engineers and bus drivers from the G9 Automotive College in Hamburg, Germany, as part of a Europe-wide vocational training initiative called the ‘Leonardo Programme’ with support from the European Social Fund. In a reciprocal arrangement, S&B will be sending nine apprentices to Germany during February 2012 so that they can get an appreciation of life in the automotive industry on the Continent. A further three German exchange groups are being planned for next year. Designed to assist the development of vocational skills and training across Europe, including work placements for trainees, the Leonardo Programme has a budget of €1.75bn, which is helping to encourage UK organisations to work with their counterparts abroad. In what is expected to be another challenging year for employers in the UK automotive sector, S&B’s Chief Executive, Jon Winter, claims that the exchange initiative will bring many benefits to the Academy and its apprentices: “In a world of global automotive brands, it’s important for our learners to understand the international context of the industry they have chosen to make their career. This new exchange programme will enable apprentices and Academy staff alike to achieve a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities within the automotive arena in Europe. With the Academy’s influence also extending to the USA and Asia, there’s every possibility that this initiative could move further afield in the future.” Continued Winter: “The need for skilled technicians across the world is on the increase and we actively encourage our apprentices to look at broader horizons during their training. Many of them have already learned the phrase ‘Vorsprung durch Gelehrtheit’, quite simply, ‘Advancement through learning.” In the 2010/11 academic year, S&B doubled the number of successful Apprenticeships over the previous year with some 350 apprentices graduating from the Academy. At the same time, achievement levels reached an all-time high with an overall success rate of 85%. For those learners on the Advanced Apprenticeship three-year programme, success rates were even higher, at over 98%. PHOTO CAPTION: As part of their exchange visit, S&B Automotive Academy arranged for the German apprentices to visit Hampshire bus operator, Bluestar, at its Barton Park depot. The students are pictured with S&B’s Andy West (3rd right) and Steve Prewett, Bluestar’s Area Engineering Manager (2nd right). Ends http://www.sandbaa.com
A man in his 40s has been injured during what is believed to have been an attempted armed robbery in County Down.