The Annual report of the GAA Director General Paraic Duffy gives us a rare insight into the workings of a major sporting organisation and covers a staggering array of initiatives, policies, reflections on the year gone by and hopes for the future.
Following on from yesterday’s look at the main focus for this year, that of Championship reform, we highlight today ten other areas which featured in the 2017 Report…
The Football Championship
“If we leave the football championship unchanged, we are effectively burying our heads in the sand: the problem of falling appeal will remain, with no obvious alternative that is likely to achieve a consensus, while the unfairness to club players will again have been ignored. The task of Congress is to decide what is best for the GAA, but it must do so in the clear understanding that the Association needs and exciting football championship.”
Those words of Duffy express the clear desire to get three motions of reform passed that will introduce extra time ahead of replays, bring forward the date of the Finals and introduce a more interesting round round robin style structure in place of the existing one off quarter finals.
The Black Card
It has its critics but since its introduction the number of goals has risen by 25%, the aggregate score in games by 10% and the number of fouls in a game has declined by 13%. That’s pretty strong evidence of a positive impact.
It is noted that while fast free flowing games like soccer and Aussie rules have relied on technology to ensure integrity of scores, they have stayed away from the more invasive impact of video replays. The idea of a television match official for GAA games is not on the cards.
The GAA hosted a major conference on concussion in partnership with Bon Secours and the University of Pittsburgh in 2016. Other potential training and education strategies in this important area are currently being considered by those same parties.
National Sports Campus
The Dublin location was criticised by some as being more for those who have the most but Duffy stresses that it was a Government decision to locate the Campus where it is and would have been crazy of the GAA not to accept a free offer of 25 acres in one of the fastest growing centres of population in the country.
To date other counties and provincial councils have used the facility to a greater extent than Dublin at inter county level and that makes it an obvious winner.
There were two objectives to securing the latest five year media rights package. The first was to ensure that games would continue to be widely available on TV and radio to a domestic Irish audience and to those living overseas.
The second was to protect the vital part of GAA revenue generated by income from broadcast rights.
The deal achieves both of those objectives and the longer term encourages broadcast partners to invest more. This has already had an impact with news that eir Sport will broadcast three games simultaneously for the first time in Irish broadcast history.
The retention of ‘near live’ clip rights for use through the GAA’s own channels will be an important part of an enhanced digital strategy being finalised in 2017.
Developments of major upgraded stadium facilities in Cork and Belfast are well under way or scheduled to begin shortly.
In response to a question from Sport for Business Duffy highlighted that it would be logical for the GAA to explore the costs and benefits of turning short term stadium enhancements including big screens that might be needed in the event of a successful Rugby World Cup bid for 2023 into more permanent improvements.
A Club Leadership Development programme has been rolled out to involve over 1000 principal officers from clubs in 18 counties to help them face the challenges of club management.
The new GRMA membership rewards scheme was launched at the end of 2016 and will be developed with partners to give a tangible reward system for members of the GAA who can redeem benefits for themselves or their clubs based on ticketing and other areas. It will also be of major benefit in developing an up to date database of members.
These are only some of the many areas touched on, ranging from rules to games development security to Snapchat and the Healthy Clubs initiative to child safeguarding.
As a template on sports management it is as good as any in the world, showing transparency and vision on how to develop the games within society as well as on the pitch.