The benefits to staging the testimonial of the sadly passed Liam Miller in Páirc Ui Chaoimh are mindbogglingly obvious. It’s his home ground, a venue he played in as a youngster with his club Eire Og. 45,000 spectators would benefit from seeing a couple of dozen ex-Ireland and Manchester United legends, instead of the 7,000 that Turner’s Cross can hold. And, most importantly of all, the charities involved would be able to maximize their intake. Everybody wins.
And it’d be the easiest PR win in the world for the GAA, easier than if you pitted the Dublin footballers against the most lowly of junior B sides.
But the GAA don’t operate with any shred of common sense and here we are again, unloading more criticism upon the organisation that overlooks our game. It’s frustrating to say the least.
As the public backlash grows louder, it’s just another example of how the public are finally copping onto the GAA as an archaic organisation, that is more concerned with its own bankroll than the betterment of the GAA community and good causes around the country.
Of course, the GAA do some tremendous work that isn’t hugely publicized and is a major organ of Irish society. But it will never shake off the negative money-grabbing perception that many have of the organisation, personified in the suit-wearing decision makers in Croke Park HQ.
The same decision makers that were quick to sell the television rights of games to international TV broadcasters, placing an expensive paywall between matches and a large portion of the viewing public.
The same organisation that will let Ed Sheeran and other concerts and gigs rip the fields to shreds during the summer months, when action is at its busiest.
But when a charity game is proposed to be staged in the fantastic new Cork facility, the organisation is suddenly strung up in madcap rules and archaic red tape. Before long the tape has knotted itself into a noose and the GAA are hanging there wilfully, refusing to use the step that will save them from any more pain.
Tonight, the organisation doubled down on their decision not to hold the game despite the growing pressure from the public.
Joe Brolly, the former Derry player and barrister, tweeted: “Rule 5.1 (a) allows GAA pitches to be used for “purposes not in conflict with the aims and objects of the association..” So, the Liam Miller game could easily be sanctioned. In any event, the penalty for a breach is discretionary R5.1(b) so a blind eye should be turned.”
In essence, nobody would care about the match being held in Pairc Ui Chaoimh because it’s a good thing all round.
This incident adds to the recent decision to host Kildare and Mayo’s football qualifier in Croke Park, which led to one of the biggest social movements we’ve ever seen in the GAA community with #NewbridgeOrNowhere. Ultimately, the power of the people rose victorious and the venue ruling was overturned, and Kildare beat Mayo in a great occasion on home turf.
More and more people are beginning to voice their discontent at the organisation and not standing for the status quo. If the Kildare chaos is anything to go by, this latest statement from the GAA won’t be the last we’ll hear about Liam Miller’s testimonial match and the backlash should get louder until common sense prevails again and the ruling is overturned.
It will be another blow to an archaic organisation, and the more blows the public can deal the quicker we will begin to see a modernising, forward thinking organisation that does best by its people – the players, clubs and volunteers that keep it alive – and creates a more positive image for itself, which will ultimately grow the game at every level.