The GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) has been an amateur organization ever since its inception in 1884, it has a proud history full of incredible football players. Even though they are a great historic organization, they have had a lot of problems recently. The GAA does not pay their players at any level of the sport and it has created a lot of issues for the sport.
The football players have never received a salary from the GAA or their respective clubs and there is no immediate change coming. This has been an issue for many players as they have struggled to make ends meet. The Australian Football League (AFL) has begun to poach players from the GAA football league as Irishmen look to better their playing career prospects. The AFL has similar rules to the GAA and Australian clubs have begun offering contracts to many young talented players and they want to bolster their own rosters. Most Irish fans understand and even root for the players that go over to the AFL as they want their countrymen to succeed and make their home country proud. This is a prime reason why the GAA needs to pay their players as their top talent will continue to leave for greener pastures.
But, there have been numerous reports that there is a lot of money at the top of the game. Most of the managers at the county level are getting paid, whether it is through under the table cash payments, assistance with rent, free cars, free gear, etc. A lot of fans and authorities are concerned because there is a lot of secrecy with the amount that players and managers are getting paid and there needs to be transparency. One top player admitted that without the extra money that he was receiving under the table that he would not have been able to keep playing the sport and would have had to leave the country to look for work.
One of the ethical issues that the GAA ignores is the countless hours that these players put into the game without any kind of reward. GAA football players miss out on valuable job skill development because they are practicing and playing Gaelic football. These football players are not able to advance further in their careers and education because they have dedicated their lives to this sport and they deserve to be fairly compensated for it. The GAA players put their bodies on the line for the sport and they are not given the same treatment in return and it is really just a shame.
The Gaelic issue is very similar to the NCAA issue in the United States. For those of us who are not familiar with the NCAA, they are the governing body of college sports in the USA. They do not pay their players but they offer scholarships which are extremely similar to the way that the GAA also offers scholarships to some of their players. The NCAA makes a huge amount of money and the coaches at the top level get paid millions of dollars a year while a lot of their players struggle to make ends meet. The GAA and NCAA both need to take a hard look at their policies and they have both been highly criticized for their practices of not playing players.
The Gaelic Athletic Association needs to completely re-evaluate its position on being an amateur sport so that all of the players at the county level can get fairly paid. The GAA makes a decent amount of money through sponsorship, ticket sales, and television rights and they have no excuse to keep the sport amateur. The GAA also has to let their players go to Australia to pursue a better playing career and maximize their earnings. If the GAA puts practices into place that prevent their players from going to the AFL, they will be just hampering their own league and resentment will build in their players. At the end of the day, the GAA needs to take ownership of their league and find a way to pay their players in a legal and clear way.