Tacking matters: Heading off a cliff with no-one to blame but ourselves


Tackling matters: By Colm Bradley

In life you often get what you deserve and in Fermanagh GAA I am sad to say we have got exactly what we deserve.

The latest spat between Club Eirne (CE) and the Fermanagh County Board (FCB) shows precisely why we do not deserve success and unfortunately any hint of success drifts further away with the ever growing apathy that exists within our clubs.

On Monday night a county board meeting sailed through its business without one murmur about the fact that CE is to ‘reassess’ its role within the county and leave the ‘field open’ for others to generate funds. Its statement to the press last week was completely ignored as the finest example of head inserting in sand was engaged in by everyone in the room.

But we shall return to ignoring large elephants in a little while. On the issue of the CE statement itself I have to admit to being a little perplexed by its vehemence and outrage.

In the statement they say that criticism by two elected officers of the County Executive Committe (CEC), two former officers of the same committee, a club chairman of a leading club, together with the refusal of two clubs to co-operate with Peter Canavan have caused the members to re-assess their support of the FCB.

I find this a head scratcher to say the least. CE has long known that there have been elements within Fermanagh GAA, both elected and unelected, who have various issues with CE.

So I am left asking myself why get so annoyed now? Let’s look at it for a moment. CE have said that 2 members of a 12 man CEC along with one club chairman out of 22 have been engaging in an ‘ongoing campaign of criticism and denigration.’

I have one questions for CE. So what? 2 members of the 12 man County Executive Committee represents less than 20% of that body while one chairman from 22 clubs represents less than 5% of chairman.

Reading between the lines one could argue that CE actually enjoy an overwhelming amount of support at over 80% of the CEC and 95% of club chairman.

Indeed, to be factual in the past there was a greater number of elected County Executive Committee Members who raised questions about CE and a greater number of clubs too.

If anything CE has more support now than then.

And it is for that reason that I simply do not understand the need for CE to gather up its toys and fire them out of the pram at this point and I can’t help thinking there is something else to it.

There is nothing wrong with people having concern and raising those concerns in a democratic organisation such as the GAA.

I have huge respect for CE and all the work that they have done for Fermanagh.

In fact I wish we could them all elected onto the CEC and let them run affairs within the county because they are a talented bunch of people with Fermanagh’s best interests at heart.

But saying all that I disagree with some fundamental aspects of how CE currently is set up.

The two problems I have is that they are independent of the County Board in terms of governance and that they primarily only supply their funds for expenses for the senior football team that are over and above those which Central Council have ruled county boards must meet.

Both these issues are intertwined and I would much rather see CE operate like Club Tyrone whom I consider to be the most successful fund-raising in the GAA. Club Tyrone operate from inside the Tyrone County Board and they provide for a much broader range of funding than CE do.

The perception of the Fermanagh GAA public is that CE is the fund-raising arm of the Fermanagh GAA yet the reality is that the FCB have to meet so many costs before any money from CE is used yet the the majority of the Fermanagh GAA public when they give to CE see their donation as being for the whole of Fermanagh GAA.

It is not.

Now, I have a little sympathy for the plight of the finance committee of the FCB. They are charged with fund-raising yet they are in the shadow of CE.

It is a difficult job.

But the sympathy I have for the FCB is, to be honest, wafer thin.

Their idea of fund-raising can be summed up by three ventures. A direct debit. A draw. Club levy. None of these ventures are imaginative. None offer the punter anything in return and none inspire anyone to the belief that significant funds can be raised in the future.

Because here is the long and the short of it. We are running at a deficit. We spend more than we take in. And this year I wager the gap will be bigger than last which was around the £85,000 mark.

That is not responsible management. You can’t continue to spend outside your means yet we seem to continue to do so. We have no long term plan for the future. We have no meaningful youth strategy. In short we seem to have no idea how best to move forward.

Personally I believe we are in for an almighty land very soon. In the next few years if someone does not shout halt to the spending, or come up with some way to raise the finance necessary we are going to need outside help. And it may not take years either.

In an ideal world we would be able to convince those members of CE to take up positions in the FCB and to work from within. To use their undoubted talents to raise money across the broad for Fermanagh GAA and help put in place a plan that can take is forward.

But this will never happen. One of the reasons that it will never happen is because as clubs we are apathetic to the abyss we are are walking towards as a county. We will fall off the cliff and we will get exactly what we deserve. We don’t like talking about the elephants in the room you see.

Sometimes I hate this job

One of the unfortunate things of being a columnist in a small county is that inevitably you get round to offending everyone. I certainly have over the years. I have no doubt that members of CE and the FCB will be offended by this piece.

The fact is though that I am paid to give an opinion and opinion is no good if it is diluted down. I am not a good enough writer to get away with flowery prose with no substance.

But that doesn’t mean I am oblivious to the sting that words can sometimes cause. Over the past nine months my family have had a tough time.

The support and friendship I have received from members of CE (one in particular) and FCB members has been moving and something I will never forget. Criticisms in this column should always be taken with the knowledge that I have the utmost respect for every person who gives their time to the GAA with Fermanagh.

It is the members of CE and the FCB and indeed our own club committees who the rest of us should look to when we consider what we give back to the association.