GAA Football

Professionalism unsustainable for GAA says McGuinness

Former Donegal manager Jim McGuinness says that the idea of professionalism in the GAA would be hard to sustain. Picture by Mark Marlow

FORMER Donegal manager Jim McGuinness says he has doubts over whether the GAA could ever sustain the idea of professionalism in their games.

In an exclusive interview with The Irish News, which appears in two parts today and tomorrow, McGuinness discusses - among other things – funding within the GAA, club fixtures, his life with Celtic and his punditry work.

Despite the GPA's new expenses deal for players viewed by many as a step towards semi-professionalism, and many coaches at all levels within the game being remunerated, McGuinness feels that the numbers simply don't add up to take it any further.

“The key for me would be sustainability. It's one thing to say ‘I think that could happen, we could make ourselves professional', but for me, you've got to know that it can happen and work over the longer term.

“I'm not talking five or 10 years. And I'm not sure if there's enough chimney pots in Ireland to make that happen. A lot of this is about supply and demand.

“If you have 20 million of a population and you're selling your national sport, and the advertising around that is a €40m deal, then you're thinking to yourself that's sustainable. There'd be enough there for coaches to be paid and players to be paid at inter-county level.

“You look at what's going on in Dublin's deal with AIG, and Cork's deal with Chill Insurance, there are fairly significant commercial deals being done within the GAA.

“Can you, in the future, create a situation where all those deals roll into one for every county team, and create sustainability? I don't honestly know.

“Once you decide you're going to go down that road, you can't come back up it. You've got to be sure that it's the right thing to do. You have to be sure about sustainability and, at the moment, I just wouldn't be sure about that.”

The Glenties man, who won an All-Ireland as a player and guided his native county to Sam Maguire and three Ulster titles in four seasons as manager, also reiterated his sympathy for club players amid the modern fixtures calendar.

“I've been on both sides of it. I've been a county player and went on to manage my club on a number of occasions, and then was a county manager. You see both sides of it.

“It doesn't matter if it's an under-12 manager, they see their team as the most important team in the club. It's the same for the club manager and the same for the county manager, theirs is the most important team. “For me, it's about the schedule, and how we can create a framework that does provide fairness. Sometimes it can be difficult to get that balance based on the number of competitions that are ongoing throughout the calendar…

“In terms of fairness, in my mind, the best thing is to create something that everybody's happy to sign up to. When it's signed up to, that's it, it doesn't change.

“The difficulty is when players are told there's going to be no football, then the football's on, then it's off again, and people don't know where they stand. When you know where you stand, it's a wee bit easier.”

The Sky Sports pundit, who also writes a weekly Gaelic football column in a national newspaper, also discusses the Association's decision to sell live television rights to a pay-per-view channel and his relationship with former rival James Horan.

McGuinness, who last year undertook his UEFA ‘B' Licence and reveals that he will begin his ‘A' Licence in April, also says that moving into a coaching role at Celtic has been “a breath of fresh air”.

Originally employed as a performance consultant and working with the first team, the former Tír Chonaill boss is currently coaching with the Scottish giants' under-19 team.

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