Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Looking Out for Loot with the GPA

Dessie and the boys aren't this pretty, of course, but you get the ideaThe stench of freshly minted greenbacks has maddened another Celtic Tiger Cub, if what An Spailpín Fánach reads in this morning's Irish Independent is to be believed.

Colm Keys has a rather remarkable article in the Indo where he writes about how much moolah is available from advertisers for our newly sexy GAA stars. Pots of the stuff, it seems, in an impossibly glamorous Park Avenue context terribly far away from those old cattle dosage commercials that you may remember from the 1980s.

Mr Keys starts with some not so gentle ribbing of those same ads, which An Spailpín finds a little infra dig, but maybe that's just a matter of personal taste. If Mr Keys thinks Miss Paris Hilton would be willing to advertise potions guaranteed to counteract the effects of our that friend of Leaving Cert Biology the liver fluke he should certainly contact Ranizole - but that's certainly a matter for himself and Miss Hilton of course.

Mr Keys then gets into his stride by talking about the endorsement opportunities open to "the best hurler and footballer in any given years" - two rarae aves that we'll be looking at later - and the great pots of money they'll get for taking post-training belts of Lucozade, driving to training in Opel motor cars and then flying home on Emirate Airlines. The hot flushes break out when Mr Keys gets talking to a Mr Donal O'Neill, "commercial director" of those old friends of An Spailpín Fánach, the GPA, and the boys get talking about what sort of player could make really big bobs and crash through the magical €100k barrier.

This "ideal player" turns out to a Dub - imagine - and his earning power would increase substantially if only - you've guessed what's coming next, haven't you? - Dublin could win the All-Ireland. Mr Keys quotes Conor Ridge of Horizon Sports Management: "Dublin is by far the biggest market and if they won an All-Ireland I think we'd really see big spin-offs for the players. The day when a GAA player can earn €100,000 through commercial activity is not that far away at all."

How wonderful for the Dubs. Because if you think that sort of dough will be rolling around all 32 counties you'd want to think again. In a rare outbreak of honesty from one of the GPA bagmen, Donal O'Neill admits that the pool of potential big GAA earners is limited. This makes Mr Keys wax philosophical for a moment: "Inevitably, the charge of elitism will be thrown in the direction of those with earning power, but that is the nature of the business."

That certainly is the nature of business, but it is not the nature of the GAA. People think the GAA is a business because it makes money, but that is to miss the core reason for the GAA's existence - to provide an opportunity to play Gaelic Games to anyone that wants that opportunity. To say the GAA only exists as a money-making business is the same as claiming that the only reason that tea exists is provide people with somewhere to put their milk and sugar. Read up your Aristotle on Metaphysics, where he talks about essence and being qua being - a work overlooked by our friends in the GPA, who are more in the Economics and Get Rich Quick shelves of Hodges Figgis.

In fact, An Spailpín Fánach has serious reservations that the GPA are even familiar with basic economic theory, great and all as money is in their value system. From An Spailpín's limited grasp of the subject, all economics operates in a closed system, where nothing can be added or taken away, but only moved from different places. So, if players - Dublin players - are making off with great big barrels of loot, that means that other players, who are not blessed with the same economic incidentals, are losing out. The nature of the business, according to the hard-nosed Mr Keys, his text on supply-side economics open on his knee. Sadly, if the business is allowed to run through to its nature, then players from anywhere in the country will all flock to Dublin, just as we in civilian life are flocking to Dublin now, looking for a way of making a living. And in five or ten years, Dublin will become the supreme power in Gaelic football, but at the cost of having no-one to play against. Everybody that could have played for Galway or Cork or Mayo or Kerry will have headed for the big city, looking for the handy cash.

In the brave new world, the Dublin GAA team will have become what the Shamrock Rovers super team of the seventies tried to be, and will have outgrown the domestic market. Dublin will have done that, but having outgrown Ireland, they'll find that nobody else wants to play. They'll be like Bohemians without Shelbourne. And when you consider what a depressing situation it is currently when Bohs have Shels to play against, you realise why Colm Keys is so far off the ball in this morning's Irish Independent.

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