The GAA has published its Annual report and Accounts for 2021 which shows a strong bounce back from the financial tsunami that hit the accounts in 2020.

The report though is about more than just the numbers and we are looking in detail at some of the social impacts that Tom Ryan writes about in his Director-General Report.

On each day of next week, we will look at the areas of Governance and Integration with the Ladies Football and Camogie Associations, at the Games side of how things went in 2021 and where they are changing in the next twelve months, and in a deep dive into the numbers.

 

For now, though let’s look at what the report says about the work of the Association away from the field of play and away from the harder measures on euros and cents.

It is not by accident, and not without genuine attachment of importance that when Ryan lists eight of the things during the year that the Association can take ‘pleasure and pride in during the GAA’s 2021’, the first of those is that “Yet again our clubs were to the forefront of voluntary efforts and community support.”

 

Clubs

The Association has over 2,200 clubs across the island of Ireland and another 400 scattered across the world, making it by far the largest community organisation we have.

The report states that “GAA Clubs have long been the centre of everything that is valued and vibrant in our communities.  In recent years that role has been even further enhanced as we seek to assume a leadership role in spheres beyond football, hurling, handball and rounders.”

That might be seen as an overreach by other sporting bodies or by groups for whom sport is not a central part of their activity but it is a powerful statement of intent to improve the lives of those involved and those around them,

28,000 people from one-third of all clubs took part in the Healthy Clubs Steps challenge at the start of last year, delivering on a Healthy Clubs programme that touched three times that number through over 500 programmes in a year where we were still be told at various times to stay apart.

 

Sustainability

45 clubs were selected for a pilot looking at areas of sustainability that will be piloted this year and then tweaked and rolled out across wider numbers in future years.

 

Youth

Apart from the vibrant underage games programmes that run across the country and the Kellogg’s Cúl Camps that delivered summer coaching to over 100,000, the GAA is also focused on youth leadership.

There is a successful Youth Leadership Programme for TY students, a Dermot Earley leadership course in partnership with Foroige and NUIG and a Future leaders Programme for schools with 400 schools signed up in the current academic year.

These provide leadership skills including in event management, sports administration, wellbeing and media that will equip the volunteers of tomorrow with talents that have never been so widely needed.

 

Older Members

Society always prioritises youth but the GAA has not forgotten about those that have gone before, apart from the creation of programmes to allow for playing inter later life, individual clubs and programmes have been established along the model of a men’s sheds approach to keeping people involved at all stages of their life.

 

Diversity

The message of ‘Where we all belong’ is central to advertising and communication across the Association.  The turning of that into a reality is still underway.

The report recognises that persons with disabilities, members of the travelling community, the LGBT+ communities and ethnic minorities are underrepresented.

This is an issue across all sports but the GAA is addressing it through a focused approach to awareness training, including education resources as part of wider mandated training for coaches and club officers and more.

Partnerships with Sport against Racism Ireland, Belong To and Jigsaw have been fostered and it is a process that is underway and in the spotlight.

 

Volunteer Burden

A section is devoted not just to thanking the army of volunteers that make the Association work but also recognising that ‘The demands placed upon GAA officers immense and growing.

It is suggested that the role of the volunteer will be to the fore in the Strategic Plan expected to be published in the coming weeks and the issue of volunteer burnout is compared in terms of importance to that of player burnout.

The sizing of roles and the need to ensure that they are not so burdensome as to make it nigh impossible to encourage new volunteers to step forward is critical.

 

READ MORE: GAA ACCOUNTS SHOW SIGNS OF POSITIVE RECOVERY