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Monday 16 September 2019

The GAA and its relationship with money explored

GAAconomics - The Secret Life of Money in the GAA
GAAconomics - The Secret Life of Money in the GAA

Book review: Alan Aherne

Just to make sure everyone's clear from the off, the subject matter for this week's column isn't exactly hot off the shelves.

Far from it in fact, as 'GAAconomics - The Secret Life Of Money In The GAA' was published back in October of 2013. I simply hadn't got around to reading it, but I was reminded that it was worth some hours of my time when I heard its author, Michael Moynihan, speaking on the topic in a recent radio interview.

Moynihan is a journalist with the 'Irish Examiner', and kudos to him at the outset for coming up with such a left-field theme for a book on our national games.

After all, the near-constant trend is for a raft of autobiographies to appear, along with the occasional specialist topic which nearly always covers a particular era, team or match.

Therefore, it took some thinking outside the box to decide to write a book on the G.A.A's relationship with money; and once the idea had been conceived, the task of turning such stuffy subject matter into a page-turning read was no easy one either.

I think Moynihan succeeds admirably though, packing a lot of information and detail into the book and ensuring it doesn't get boring by delivering his summation after just over 200 pages.

Practically every relevant area is covered, and the author has chosen well in terms of the regular contributors throughout.

He didn't just opt for any old economist to share their thoughts on the subject matter; instead he chatted with such suitable candidates as John Considine, a lecturer in the topic at U.C.C. and former Cork hurler and manager, as well as current Tipperary manager Eamon O'Shea who is a professor of economics in N.U.I.G.

These men have a foot in both camps therefore, and that makes their views particularly interesting. What's more, they're every bit as relevant now as when the book first saw the light of day.

There is one major example of how the collective mindset can change so quickly and decisively in a big organisation though, and it made me laugh when I read it.

Some firmly opposed to the Sky Sports deal may be sufficiently moved to hurl this book against the nearest wall when they read what Director General Páraic Duffy had to say on the topic in conversation with Moynihan in 2013, given what has since transpired:

'We've had informal approaches from satellite broadcasters, but we can't go that way, really. Whatever you might like to say, and you might like to say otherwise, essentially the membership wouldn't allow you to do that.

'I could go out tomorrow and Sky will offer us four or five times what RTE are offering, but I know if I came back to management with that, the organisation would say to me, "get out of here. We're not doing that".'

We all know what happened next, and it just goes to show how quickly things can change in the G.A.A.

Moynihan talks to stake-holders from both sides of the fence and the nett result is a lot of thought-provoking material.

For instance, have you ever actually sat down to do the sums and work out how much the wage bill would be nationally if, perish the thought, the G.A.A. did turn professional at inter-county level? This book provides the answer to that question, and a lot more besides.

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