GAA Football

"Racist abuse happens in our games" claims Down secretary McAteer

Down secretary Sean Og McAteer told his county's convention last night that there will be a zero tolerance approach to racial abuse in 2018 
Cahair O'Kane

DOWN secretary Sean Óg McAteer has claimed that there “is no doubt that sledging and racial verbal abuse happens in our games”.

While not referring to any specific examples, in his annual report to convention the long-serving Mourne official made strong references to racial abuse having occurred, he called on the county’s CCC and divisional boards to show “zero tolerance” towards racial abuse on the playing field in 2018.

“We live in an ever changing society and that is positive but one thing that must remain constant has to be our respect for others.

“More and more people from different backgrounds, different creeds and different colours are playing our games and that is wonderful.

“The spread of Gaelic Games throughout the world is something that Cusack and our founding fathers could not have imagined possible.

“Only recently Maureen O’Higgins attended the Asian Games in a private capacity and she remarked how the teams representing Japan were all native Japanese, wonderful for an Irish sporting organisation to have an increasing impact throughout the world.

“We closer to home in Down GAA have to address the issue of respect for all of our players and members, there is no doubt that sledging and racial verbal abuse happens in our games.

“We can hide behind it and say no not me or no not my club but I say yes it does happen, it is unacceptable and it has no place in the GAA or in life in general.

“We have to eradicate it, clubs have to be strong and have a proper Code of Conduct which allows them to educate their members and then in turn deal with any breaches of the Code.

“I cannot be any stronger than to say that in 2018 I would ask our CCC and our Divisional Boards to show zero tolerance in regard to any racial abuse on the playing field.

“The colour of one’s skin does not determine the quality of the person, the players who take the field for club or county and there because they are the best person in that position.

“As I say we can hide behind it, we can be in denial that it would not happen in our club or in our county or we can do something about and say ‘stop’, show your opponent respect don’t show your own ignorance.

“Playing our games should be an enjoyable experience, there will be joy in winning and there will be pain in defeat let there not be hurt because of verbal or racial abuse.

“Enough is enough - in 2018 let us show zero tolerance for any instance of racial or verbal abuse.”

The Newry Mitchel’s clubman also called on the GAA to begin charging under-16s for entry to matches as the current situation “lessens the value we put on our games”.

At present, under-16s go free to McKenna Cup and National League games, and there are concessions for championship tickets also.

McAteer also hinted that Down will look to improve its own gate receipts with a possible increase on admission prices to club championship games next year.

“35 per cent of our attendees [at club games in Down] gain free admission as under-16s and a further 31 per cent enter as students or over 65s.

“These are two areas that I feel need to be addressed not just by Down but by the Association as a whole, in no other sporting context am I aware of a scenario whereby under-16s gain free admission to an event.

“We are, I feel, undervaluing our games by in essence giving them away free to those under-16 we are creating a culture then of expectation, the expectation that I can get in free and this to mean lessens the value we put on our games.

“You only have to be about gates to see how the patrons try to gain entry to games as under 16s, to watch people drive up to a game park the car and then announce to the ticket seller ‘one under-16’.

“To see men come up and ask for one adult and two under-16 tickets and then see their wife and married daughter enter the ground on the under-16 tickets!

“To me this has to change and I would suggest that nationally we start with the Allianz League to begin the process and we have a €2/£2 charge for under-14s and for under-18s a charge of €5/£5 be introduced.

“[Also] that the category of concessions for student is removed and that the only other concession is for those over 65.

“I certainly feel that in Down we have to look at our admission price structure for our own Club Championships in 2018.”

MEANWHILE, Down county board will put forward a motion to Congress to end the practice whereby a player sent off in a final cannot participate in the presentation ceremony.

The issue over the antiquated ruling was recently brought back into the spotlight when Moorefield captain Daryl Flynn was given a one-match ban for lifting the trophy after the club’s Kildare SFC win over Celbridge.

He had been sent off for two yellow cards, which would have brought no suspension, but subsequently missed their Leinster quarter-final win over Portlaoise after deciding to head the celebrations.

The inconsistency of the rule’s application is notable given that Dublin’s John Small climbed the Hogan Stand steps to lift Sam Maguire after his county’s All-Ireland SFC win over Mayo, in which he had been dismissed midway through the second half. He is not believed to have been punished.

In one of two motions they will send to Congress, the Mourne county have suggested that the rule banning a player sent off from the presentation be deleted from the Official Guide.

They have also proposed streamlining the punishment for minor physical interference with, or threatening abuse or language towards, a match official.

As it stands, the Category V offence still falls under the old time-based punishment system rather than the offender being banned for a specific number of games.

Down are proposing that rather than a 12-week ban for a first offence, that it would instead carry a 4-match ban.

A repeat infraction carries a 24-week ban currently, and Down are seeking to make than a 8-match ban.

Both motions, brought forward by the county board itself, were expected to be carried at last night’s county convention.

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