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A general view of the exterior of the Clare GAA Centre of Excellence in Caherlohan. Photograph by John Kelly

Hard-hitting review highlights shortcomings in Clare GAA

THE governance of Clare GAA needs to be overhauled, while a CEO, Finance Manager and Commercial/Brand manager should all be appointed, according to the newly published recommendations report of the independent Strategic Planning Group (SPG).

In the appendix booklet of the report it stated that every stakeholder group in the county had prioritised governance as an area requiring immediate change and restructure.

It says Clare currently does not have the ability to take advantage of financial opportunities that exist. “The expansion of Clare GAA “business of sport” activity has not been matched by increasing the operational capacity of the organisation.

“The structures required to operate a multi million euro operation do not exist within Clare GAA with no capacity to adapt to or respond to many commercial opportunities now available. No structures exist to stimulate activity to generate the essential revenues for ongoing investment across all areas of Clare GAA. This represents a key limitation in the organisations capacity to progress the areas under consideration within the strategic plan.”

The report also criticises the fact the County Board is not in control of Supporters Clubs. “Clare County Board has no control or oversight on either hurling and football Supporters Clubs. Clare GAA remain in the minority of counties who do not consolidate their supporters club activities under one fundraising vehicle.

“The lack of governance from a Clare GAA perspective on supporters club activities is further at odds with best practice employed by all other counties. New supporters club governance guidelines from Croke Park will address this in 2021.”

It states that the burden of involvement in stimulating Supporters Club activity should be taken away from county managers, which it says would be in line with “best practice across other GAA counties.”

It also states that there are no formal reporting procedures, terms of reference or agreed project/work plans for any Clare GAA committee.

Actions suggested for 2022 include appointing a full time operations manager, a role which would evolve into a CEO position, the appointment of a full time commercial/brand manager and the appointment of a full time finance manager.

It also proposes enhancing the role of the Independent Clare GAA Audit and Risk Committee, and developing clear terms of reference for all of Clare’s GAA committees.

The report is very critical of the standard of facilities at Caherlohan, saying it “lacks the most basic training infrastructure that is needed to prepare a team”.

It says that much of what has been built is not fit for purpose, with grass pitches unplayable for much of the year, dressing rooms that are too small, a gym that is too small and non training aspects that could be greatly improved.

It also notes that there is no astroturf facility, no ball walls, no indoor training facility, no dedicated physio suites and the facility can’t really cope with male and female teams being there at the same time.

The document proposes remedial work to pitches at a cost of €142,556 per one, the construction of an all weather pitch at a cost of over €1.9 million and the development of a carpark and roadways at a cost of €331,509.

It also recommends that Caherlohan become the headquarters of Clare GAA, when facilities for staff and volunteers are developed.

The appointment of a facilities manager is also proposed and it says that Cusack Park should be part of their brief. It notes that there may be commercial opportunities around the county grounds through advertising, its naming rights, tendering of catering facilities and its use for concerts.

It is recommended that moves towards having Clareabbey rezoned be made, in advance of a potential future sale.

“It is highly recommended to make a submission to Clare County Council to rezone the site as “residential” in the forthcoming Clare County Development Plan 2022-2028. This will add significant value to site and give Clare GAA the option of selling at a later point, if/when a decision is made to relocate to Caherlohan.”

In terms of playing, it finds that there too few games going ahead in Clare. “Our players (adult and underage) generally have an insufficient number of meaningful/competitive games each year.

“Our juvenile players are seen to be under-served in terms of meaningful games activities annually. For example, our underage football players rank in the lowest quartile nationally in terms of average number of games played annually.”

Clare has four Coaching & Games staff across 54 clubs, and the report finds this is inadequate. “Our resources are spread too thinly to make meaningful inroads in any school or area.”

The Strategic Plan Group was chaired by Enda Connolly and he praised Éire Óg for initiating the review, while he said “It is now the collective responsibility of the other 53 clubs of Clare to ensure this independent report is adopted and implemented, so it may provide a sustainable framework for Clare GAA to develop every facet of its organisation, both on and off the field.”

About Owen Ryan

Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.