GAA Ard Stiúrthóir Tom Ryan launches 2018 Annual Report
By John Harrington
GAA Ard Stiúrthóir, Tom Ryan, today launched his 2018 Annual Report at Croke Park.
In it, he addressed a spectrum of challenges facing the GAA and also reflected on some important recent achievements in other key areas.
His report in full can be read and downloaded at the bottom of this article.
Perhaps the central thread running throughout the document was the primacy of the club in the structure of the Association, the challenges facing those involved in all club activities, and his intention to do all he can to alleviate some of the associated pressures.
“The club of course should be at the heart of the Association,” said Ryan at today’s launch in Croke Park.
“We say it all the time, but that doesn't mean it should descend into the level of cliche. The club is the most important unit and that's the foundation of everything.
“I think the inter-county game is, by and large, in a good place. It's well resourced, it gets plenty of profile, as it rightly should because it's the shop window, but it can't exist without the club game and the club network.
“It is our job to make sure that club network continues to survive and grow and thrive, and that should never be too far from our minds.”
The first step in improving something is identifying what exactly the challenges or problems that need to be addressed are.
Ryan believes the work of the National Club Committee, which was established last year, has gone a long way to doing just that.
“We asked clubs directly that question and got a great response our of the 1600 clubs in Ireland,” said Ryan.
“Over 850 clubs responded which is very high and we were very pleased with that. And there were a few recurring themes coming out of it.
“In terms of the challenges facing clubs, they fell into three or four broad categories. First and foremost, Finance is on everybody's mind. Just simply having the resources to be able to run a club effectively and properly.
“Being able to raise the funds, in some cases, in difficult circumstances, and just the escalating costs of running a club. We'll do our best do help people with that.
“The second thing was fixtures and the difficulty of running a club in an environment where you might not have a predictable club fixture programme and you might not know at the start of the year what the year is going to hold fixture-wise for your teams.
“We've done some work on that this year in terms of creating windows and openings for counties to schedule their games in a predictable way. It's up to both ourselves and the counties that that opportunity is availed of this year.
“And then the third element is volunteerism. It's difficult to attract people and it's difficult to keep people and they are the single most important resource that we have in the Association, the club volunteer.
“So we have to make sure that people still want to sign up and give their time to their local GAA club. And that if they do it then they're thanked and rewarded and valued for what they're doing.”
Ryan is less than a year into his seven-year term as Ard Stiúrthóir of the GAA and the main priority for the remainder of his stewardship is to make GAA clubs better places to play.
“No question,” said Ryan. “Not just better places to play, but it's also an environment for people to contribute a lot more than just playing. And to hopefully get a lot out of it as well.
“So, yes, the club is front and centre.”