HomeFootballGAA given ‘zero funding for facilities’ warning

GAA given ‘zero funding for facilities’ warning

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The GAA will get ‘zero funding for facilities’ unless it guarantees equal access for ladies’ teams, it has been warned.

Junior Sports Minister Thomas Byrne said he has been hearing far too often that women in Gaelic games organisations across the country ‘do not have access to facilities on the same basis as men’.

The vast majority of Gaelic games pitches and training grounds across the country are owned by the GAA, which is separate from the Ladies Gaelic Football Association and the Camogie Association.

One LGFA source told of a recent case in which an under-12 boys’ team were given preferential access to a pitch for a training session ahead of a senior ladies’ football match.

Junior Sports Minister Thomas Byrne. Pic: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

Mr Byrne has warned that capital funding will be withheld, unless organisations can show that a written policy demonstrating equality of access is in place.

The Fianna Fáil TD, who has responsibility for the €250million sports capital and equipment programme, has urged GAA clubs to take the new rules seriously.

Mr Byrne told the Dáil: ‘I urge sporting organisations to be aware of the problems’.

‘Every week I visit sports facilities or hear from sports clubs, women’s sports clubs in particular, that they do not have access to facilities on the same basis as men. They do not have similar pitch times or, in many cases, women’s clubs are charged rent but men’s clubs are not.’

Pic: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
The GAA will get ‘zero funding for facilities’ unless it guarantees equal access for ladies’ teams, it has been warned. Pic: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

‘To be absolutely clear, a change I made this time is that there will be zero funding for facilities where that is the case.’

Mr Byrne said some people ‘seem to be in denial about this’, but warned it will have to stop.

He added: ‘Otherwise, the Government cannot provide funding under programmes like this. Some months ago, I met members of a soccer club which had to facilitate a ladies Gaelic football club because it could not get access to the local GAA pitch. This is happening all too frequently and it has to stop. We will not fund it.’

He continued: ‘Some people take the view it is okay that the men’s club does not pay a fee to use facilities but the women’s teams must pay a fee. That day is over from a funding point of view. That type of situation will disqualify applicants from drawing down sports capital funding’.

Pic: Gareth Chaney/Collins Photos
Mr Byrne told the Dáil: ‘I urge sporting organisations to be aware of the problems’. Pic: Gareth Chaney/Collins Photos

‘We will award the grants and give people a chance to change things. For any grant at regional level or above, we will now require a written policy demonstrating that the similar access policy is in place,’ he warned.

Green Party TD Marc Ó Cathasaigh welcomed the move, saying there is an ‘outdated attitude evident which, thankfully, I think is disappearing’.

He added: ‘“Keep those girls off the good grass” is one of the things we hear in some of the more outdated places.’

One senior Government source said: ‘People don’t really realise it unless you are in the circle. It’s not the vast majority of GAA clubs. Some clubs are a problem. The big problem is at the county level. In one county the women weren’t allowed to use the gyms in the centre of excellence’.

Marc Ó Cathasaigh. Pic: Green Party
Green Party TD Marc Ó Cathasaigh welcomed the move, saying there is an ‘outdated attitude evident which, thankfully, I think is disappearing’. Pic: Green Party

‘I don’t think the GAA are taking it seriously, but I think [GAA president] Jarlath Burns is taking it a bit more seriously.’

Clubs and county boards will have to sign up to a ‘similar access’ policy document and commit to publishing it on their websites.

A draft form provided to clubs applying for the funding shows that they will have to be able to demonstrate that women’s teams are getting the ‘best training times’ on an equal basis throughout the year.

Any club applying for the sports capital grant, worth over €200,000, will have to ‘publish a policy showing that men and women have similar access’.

They will have to sign up to a commitment that ‘women and men will have similar access to facilities, including the “best” training, game and optimal facility times, as well as similar access to social and changing room facilities’.

Marian Crowley, the chair of Cork LGFA, welcomed the move from Mr Byrne.

Pic: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Marian Crowley, the chair of Cork LGFA, welcomed the move from Mr Byrne. Pic: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Asked if some GAA clubs didn’t treat women equally, she said: ‘That could possibly be very true, at club level. Some clubs are very amenable, but not all clubs have that.’

She said she was aware of instances where women were not given the same access to facilities as men.

‘It would all depend on the club. Where at all possible, our club will give us a pitch. I do know in other clubs, the under-12 boys training has gotten precedence over a ladies match. That has happened lately. It’s hit and miss’.

Ms Crowley added: ‘There are women who do all the work for the GAA – they sell the tickets, they do fundraising, the cake sales…’

‘I am a member of a GAA club as well. I do the sandwiches for teams afterwards. You do it voluntarily,’ she said.

‘The GAA forget about it sometimes that there are women who are both on and off the field and are involved in it and they are forgotten. That’s forgotten about, especially the older men. It seems to be enshrined that this is their territory.’

She stressed that she had a strong relationship with the Cork GAA and that they always sought to facilitate the ladies’ team where possible.

It is also understood that one LGFA county football team was requested to share their gate receipts with a GAA club for an inter-county match.

In February of this year, the GAA, the Camogie Association, and the LGFA revealed 2027 as the proposed date for their plans for full integration between the three organisations.

Asked if the GAA would require their clubs and county boards to ensure there is equal access to facilities for both men and women, a spokesman said: ‘All of these issues are part of the wider integration process that is currently ongoing.’

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