Europe GAA chairman stands by 'Trojan horse' description of Club Players Association

Europe GAA chairman Tony Bass stands by his Congress comments about the Club Players Association (CPA), insisting the GAA is best placed to address clubs’ concerns, writes John Fogarty.

CPA chairman Micheál Briody claimed in yesterday’s Irish Examiner that fellow executive member Liam Griffin was subjected to “vilification” by Bass at Saturday’s meeting after Griffin presented a motion calling for voting transparency at Congress.

However, Bass said he had “respect” for Wexford’s 1996 All-Ireland SHC-winning manager but had issues with what he was submitting to Congress and therefore chose to counter it, describing them as a “Trojan horse”.

Bass categorically denied he described the CPA as “a nutty group”, as executive members of the CPA claimed. He explained his comments were incorrectly transcribed by an online journalist and he corrected him as soon as he learned of the misquote.

He remarked: “The first thing I spoke about was trusting people who you elect and if you don’t trust them don’t elect them. I’ve nothing against Liam (Griffin) and I have respect for him but I don’t know the man. I focused on what the motion would be and I was thinking ahead to what would happen in the future.”

He continued: “The reason I used the phrase ‘Trojan horse’ was because the CPA seems to be a group within an organisation and there was no reference to a club when Liam was presenting the motion or whatever else.

“Liam, I presume, was there representing his club and county but I have seen nothing about the CPA in terms of what their democratic structures or their governance structures are. I’ve no problem with transparency per se.

“My view is that the GAA is very democratic and I said what I said last year that the GAA were the real club players association. Most of the people involved in GAA administration have all been players. It’s not like we were all parachuted in from somewhere.

“HL Mencken said ‘for every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong’.

“I’ve huge sympathy for things like club fixtures but we all know what the issues are and in fairness Congress last year, with the hierarchy, tried to provide more space to clubs and it’s up to the clubs and counties that it happens now.

“People sometimes don’t realise what Congress is. It’s like the shareholders meeting of a large company. It’s a governance thing and you don’t get to discuss too much about policy. All the motions are about the rulebook. Sometimes, people on the outside don’t get how it works but all the tidying up of the rulebook and so on has to be done.

“And I’ve more motions defeated than they (the CPA) have ever had. In the old days, people put their hands up but you would only have a few seconds to look around and see who around you was doing it.”

Bass took umbrage at how he has been portrayed by the CPA since Congress.

“I heard one of the representatives Anthony Moyles saying, ‘Who the hell is he?’ Let me tell you who I am — I am a former Cuala club person of the year. I’ve been refereeing for 25 years and put it in with my club in Dublin. I started the juvenile section there with Damien Byrne and the fruits of that we’re now seeing on the field on St Patrick’s Day. I wasn’t personally responsible but a group of people had to get that started when there was no juvenile section there. I went on to become secretary of that and the club.

“I’ve been on the Dublin County Board, coaching and games, Leinster coaching and games and now the last 14 years I’ve been working my ass off to develop Europe.”

Bass also believed the motion, if passed, would lead to “witch hunts”. He elaborated: “If everyone’s individual vote was out there in the public domain — and you would have a lot of older people involved too — it would be an invitation for all sorts of people to attack them like the keyboard warriors and the Twitterati.

“Normally, you wouldn’t break the mandate unless there was an overwhelmingly good reason like an angle came up at Congress that you hadn’t spotted or thought of.

“In Europe, we go through a lot of motions and we know a lot of them wouldn’t directly affect us but we try and understand them. We rarely mandate our delegates but when we do we would check everyone’s vote so we have no trouble with anyone’s accountability.”

This story first appeared in the Irish Examiner.

By John Fogarty
GAA Correspondent

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