GAA Football

Derry will appoint full-time 'CEO or Commercial Manager': Farren

Bobby Farren, who is nominated for county board chairman in Derry. Picture by Mal McCann

BOBBY Farren, a nominee for the chairmanship of Derry county board at next month’s annual convention, says his first port of call if elected will be to appoint a full-time CEO or Commercial Manager for the county.

A former Irish international athlete, Farren currently sits on the GAA’s National Games Development Committee, and helped bring an estimated £7m in funding into Derry during a five-year term as the county’s development officer.

The Limavady Wolfhounds clubman, whose professional role is as managing associate of Farren Consulting which helps businesses with planning and funding operations, has been nominated for the current top job along with Smith, who has been in the chair for four years.

Farren believes creating a full-time role at the head of the county’s personnel structure is vital to bring the Oak Leaf county in line with top counties.

He also underlined the need for a culture of “transparency, communication and accountability” in order to heal the “disconnect” between the clubs and existing county executive, and says moves must be made to streamline the county’s approach to player development.

“It is time for change in the way we do things. The GAA has moved on incredibly in the last number of years.

“We have to come into the modern age in terms of how we run our county.

“Derry county board turns over just over £1m a year, and we have £7m worth of assets.

“That needs to be managed properly and let the county board with the leadership, trusteeship and stewardship of the organisation.

“The county board has to be accountable and able to answer. If I am that person, I aim to be totally accountable and answerable to the clubs.”

On whether it would the hiring would be a CEO (Chief Executive Officer) or Commercial Manager, Farren said the details would need to be properly thrashed out: “It’s a juggling exercise of what is the role. It’s either a CEO or a Commercial Manager to run the commercial side of it.

“You can’t expect volunteers to run a commercial operation. That’s one thing we seriously need to look at.”

He believes that the role would pay for itself in terms of “creating efficiencies” and added: “I can guarantee now there’ll be no financial burden on the clubs.”

Since reaching a Division One final four years ago, Derry have fallen off the face of the footballing earth and will begin next season in the bottom tier of the National League.

Farren admits that a “disconnect” has grown between the clubs and the powers-that-be at Owenbeg, and says that work needs to be done to harness the clubs’ efforts for the betterment of the whole county.

“We used to be at the top table, we were in the top eight to twelve counties in Ireland down the years. But in the last four years, we’ve gone from a Division One final to Division Four. We’re in the bottom eight now.

“Yet the clubs are getting it right. There’s been this idea that the clubs don’t care, but when we met them at those advisory sessions, the clubs care passionately about the county.

“We need to connect back with them. We need a bit of communication, transparency and accountability.

“We’ve been through three senior football managers in the last four years. We’ve got through a higher number of players than any county in Ulster as well.

“Where football and hurling are at now, it’s very difficult for a lay person to negotiate the contracts for strength and conditioning coaches and managers, because the game has moved on so dramatically.

“It’s unfair for a volunteer to be asked to negotiate a contract with the like of strength and conditioning coaches. They’re being employed to do work, so how do you set KPIs for these people if you’re not coming from that background?

“We need to be looking at what the benchmarks are in Dublin, Mayo, Kerry, and seeing how we can get our sporting athletes to that level.”

Farren also believes that the growing young population in Derry city must be harnessed if the county is ever to fulfil its potential.

“We’ve managed, over the last few years, to get every club in the city their own pitch.

“The population within Derry city is projected to grow significantly and the level of participation in GAA has grown significantly. We need to support that and increase participation, and there will be a latency with that.

“Look what happened within Dublin when they employed their Blue Wave strategy. It’s no surprise that they are at the top table constantly in football and hurling, because they’ve engaged in those communities.

“We’re the fourth largest county in Ireland in terms of population. We have been there in the top eight at inter-county level, and we have it at club level.

“We have Slaughtneil, we’ve had Ballinderry previously, Eoghan Rua, Banagher, and what’s happened within CCC and making leagues more competitive, you can see that with Limavady getting to an Ulster junior final.

“The talent’s there within the clubs, but they’re not coming to the county setups for whatever reason. We need to find out what that reason is and get those people reconnected.”

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