Leading Sport – Páraic Duffy

In the latest of our Leading Sport series, in association with our Partners in Leadership PwC, Sport for Business sat down with the Director General of the GAA, Páraic Duffy to fixtures, healthy clubs, Tottenham Hotspur and more…

Heading into your 10th Championship as Director general how do you feel the GAA has changed under your stewardship?

Ireland is a very different place than it was in 2008. Every sporting organisation has had to respond to change and we have done so in a myriad of ways around our competition and disciplinary structures, commercial activities, use of technology and in generally attempting to develop the organisation on a strategic basis

With the fixture list a key point of contention how do you feel the balance might be struck between club and county?

We have worked hard over the past two years to achieve that balance and I am confident that a significant improvement will be evident when the 2018 fixtures schedules are finalised.

How important is the social cohesion element of the Association in terms of your workload?

You are always working to achieve that around the common set of values and beliefs within the Association.

The Healthy Club initiative has been a success at local level, is that something you would like to see extended?

With the support of Irish Life we now have 60 clubs participating and it is planned to open participation to all interested clubs in 2018.

You took a personal hit with initial reaction to having Sky come on board as broadcast partners.  Do you feel the decision has been vindicated by the international growth?

It isn’t a matter of vindication. Giving the Irish in Britain the opportunity to watch our games on TV in their home has been extremely well received and, with the growth of GAAGO, we are meeting the needs of our exiles as never before.

How much of an opportunity do you see GAAGO as being in terms of controlling your own distribution of content, alongside RTE as partners?

The arrangement has worked extremely well to date and both RTE and the GAA see it as a partnership that has further scope for development.

The movement of the GAA, the Camogie Association and Ladies Football coming closer together seems to have slowed.  Is it something you would like to see progress?

We have made significant progress in recent months. We must respect the autonomy of the Camogie Association and LGFA but there is currently a determination in all three bodies to develop closer links.

The GAA is often criticised, mainly from the outside, for its commercial interests.  How do you personally square that with the amateur ethos of the Association?

Whether we like it or not, commercial and marketing factors are a feature of the world in which the GAA must operate. We have a responsibility to safeguard the status and position of our games and commercial revenues are vital to our ability to fund the development of the Association.

What are some of the things that are most exciting on your desk now?

This week it is the launch of GAA Now, the online video platform available worldwide on GAA.ie which houses in-game clips, weekend round-up packages, archive footage and other bespoke content. I am also looking forward to the completion of the new Páirc Uí Chaoimh stadium over the next few weeks.

And the ones that present the greatest challenges?

Dealing with the threats posed by rural depopulation and the movement of population from west to east.

What will success look like for the GAA between now and 2020?

Increased participation in our games and rising match attendances.

Tell us a little of your own history and what has brought you to your role at the GAA?

I have been involved in the GAA for as long as I can remember. I played with Castleblayney Faughs, held a host of administrative posts in Monaghan, chaired several national committees and joined the Croke Park staff in 2007 as Player Welfare Manager. 

What are your own sporting passions?

Passion is reserved for all aspects of Monaghan GAA! However, I take a keen interest in a whole host of sports and follow very closely the fortunes of Boston Celtics, New England Patriots, the Boston Red Sox and Tottenham Hotspur.

What are your personal ambitions to get over the line over the next 12 months?

To oversee the successful roll-out of new formats in the senior football and hurling championships and to see work begin on the building of a totally new Casement Park and the new National Handball Centre.


Read our previous interviews in this series including with Minister of State for Sport Patrick O’Donovan and Pentathlon Ireland CEO Darragh Cunningham.

Join us on June 14th at the studios of RTÉ for a packed morning looking at the world of media and sports content with experts and leaders from Ireland and the UK.


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