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Cork GAA Clubs' Forum - Interim Report 2009 Report Page

Report Introduction
At a meeting of Cork GAA Clubs in March 2009 at Maryborough House, attended by the chairpersons and secretaries of in excess of 150 Cork GAA Clubs (not accounting for dual affiliation), the overwhelming desire of the assembled Clubs on the night was to establish a Cork GAA Clubs’ Forum.

The Clubs identified the need to establish such a body to give them a stronger voice in the development, promotion and improvement of Gaelic Games in Cork. In particular, it was agreed that such a Forum was required to ensure that the views of all clubs and members and in particular the 78 Junior Clubs (not accounting for dual affiliation), which currently have no direct representation at County Board level would be heard.

The Forum was set up and Divisional co-ordinators for each Division were appointed along with three other delegates from each Division. The Forum's role is to liaise with and represent the views of the Clubs and their members, and to implement an agenda set by the Clubs on behalf of their members. The focus of that agenda is to assist the Clubs and the Cork County Board (CCB) in developing and improving structures that will benefit Cork GAA at all levels, both now and in the future.

Despite some concerns expressed to date at County Board level, the role of the Forum is neither to act as opposition to the Cork County Board nor to usurp the Cork County Board's authority as the administrators of the affairs of GAA in Cork.

The Forum provides an opportunity to all Clubs to meet, give constructive feedback, and put forward ideas for the long term betterment of Cork GAA. The Forum will then present those ideas which gain most support within the Forum to the Cork County Board and will work with the Clubs and Cork County Board to bring those ideas to fruition. Unlike the Cork County Board, the Forum is not constrained in terms of the time it can spend on these issues by the need to also ensure the smooth running of the various competitions which come under the auspices of the Cork County Board, or the need to oversee the performance of the many other duties imposed on the Cork County Board under the rules and regulations. It is also hoped that by completing much of the initial consultations and discussion with Clubs in relation to any proposals presented by the Forum to the County Board, the Forum will help to avoid placing an undue burden on the resources within the County Board.

The Forum will continue to work diligently for the betterment of the GAA within the County, and will continue to press for prioritisation of those developments which have been identified by the Clubs as important to them. This is to maintain Cork's proud and noble tradition and position as the foremost County of Cumann Lúthchleas Gael.

Over the past four months the Forum has held many meetings and workshops both at County level and Divisional level. These platforms allowed for open and frank debate about the various desires and suggestions for improvements that Cork GAA Clubs have in order to improve Cork GAA. The outcome of these meetings has now been compiled as an interim report on the Forum’s workings for issuing to the various interested parties. The report is in 3 sections
• Democratic Structures
• Communication Issues
• Development Issues
The Forum is encouraged that some of the recommendations and suggestions included in this report, and in prior correspondence, such as setting up development squads, development of Cork GAA website, Club email system, coaching schemes etc have already been worked on by the Cork County Board over the past four months. The Forum is pleased that Cork County Board are taking on board and progressing some of these important issues which have been raised by Clubs and we look forward to working with the County Board to maximise the opportunities for Cork GAA in the implementation and further development of these and other ideas.

Signed On behalf of Cork GAA Clubs Forum: Denis Withers Secretary, Tomas Ryan Chairperson, John Corcoran PRO.

Section 1 - Democratic Structures
Introduction To Democratic Structures Section
• Since the founding of the Club Forum, there has been a continuing groundswell for democratic reforms within Cork GAA.
• The democratic reforms presently identified and required by the Clubs can be achieved by amendment of Cork GAA Bye-Laws, and without recourse to Congress or Croke Park.
• The Clubs have mandated the Forum to seek the following changes:-

1. Junior Club Representation
• Cork is one of the few remaining Counties where Junior Clubs are not directly represented at County Board level.
• Senior and Intermediate Clubs have a Representative (colloquially known as a Delegate, and hereinafter referred to as such) and a vote each at County Board Meetings.
• 78 Junior Clubs (not accounting for dual affiliation) have no direct representatives or votes at County Board Meetings, instead relying on Divisional delegates.
• The rights of GAA Clubs in Cork to democratic representation at County Board Level are thus affected by their performance on the pitch and their ability to achieve Intermediate or Senior status on the field of play, not by their fundamental democratic rights as an affiliated Club, or the extent of their involvement in their local community or in the development of Cork GAA’s organisation off the pitch.
• As a result, a major disconnect exists between Junior Clubs and the Cork County Board.
• The expertise and experience of 78 Clubs is not being fully utilised as a result of their full democratic rights being denied them.
• The alienation and frustration felt by Junior Clubs can be replaced by a feeling of inclusiveness, participation and belonging.

Proposal: Motion to be brought by Clubs before Convention that each Junior Club has similar representation at County Board level as Senior and Intermediate Clubs. This Motion would require amendments to Bye-Laws 1, 2, 3 and 7.

2. Delegates To Consult with Clubs
• Concern exists among Cork Clubs that important motions are raised and voted upon at County Board Meetings without prior recourse to the Clubs.
• Delegates are granted insufficient time to consult with their Clubs with a lot of motions being rushed through.
• Clubs’ views are therefore not accurately reflected in important CCB decisions.
• This creates a further disconnect between Club Members and their County Board Delegate, and ultimately between the Club Members and the County Board.

Proposal: Motion to be brought by Clubs that save in relation to routine matters of administration such as fixtures, venues etc, delegates do not vote on any matter without first obtaining direction from the executive committee of their clubs as to which way they should vote. This Motion would constitute a new Bye-Law and would require no amendments to existing Bye-Laws.

3. Voting At County Board Meetings
• Currently, Cork GAA Clubs have no access to any records of votes taken at CCB level.
• There is no transparent method for them to check that their mandate is being accurately delivered at County Board level.
• Neither can Delegates who wish to do so demonstrate to their Clubs and fellow members that they are delivering that mandate at meetings.
• This process has lead to a lack of transparency in Cork GAA’s democratic process, and to unnecessary tensions throughout Cork GAA.

Proposal: Motion to be brought by Clubs before Convention that secret ballots are not permitted, and that each Delegate’s vote be recorded and available for inspection by Delegate’s Club. Agendas for and minutes of each CCB meeting to be distributed to each Club in a timely fashion. This Motion would require an amendment to Bye-Law 4.

4. Voting At Convention
• The GAA’s Official Guide dictates that at Convention all Clubs have two votes per affiliation, and all Club Delegates have one vote.
• Cork’s Bye-Laws, however, dictate that for the Election of Officers which is carried out by post prior to Convention, Clubs have only one vote per affiliation.
• On this vital matter, Clubs believe that they should have the same voting rights as those granted them for the passing of motions at Convention, thus ensuring a consistency of rights within the Bye-Laws. Delegates voting rights would not be altered by this proposal.

Motion to be brought by Clubs before Convention that all Clubs have two votes per affiliation for the Election of Officers. This Motion would require an amendment to Bye-Law 13.

5. Term Serving On Executive
• Currently, there is no time limit on the term a member can serve on the Executive.
• In a County the size of Cork, with its many GAA members, it is felt that a maximum term of six years is more appropriate.
• The member in question would then be obliged to serve a two-year break from the Executive and would not be able to hold any position on the Executive during that period.
• This would ensure a healthy freshness of energy and ideas.
• A position on the Executive would then be more accessible to the many members who wish to serve Cork GAA.

Proposal: Motion to be brought by Clubs before Convention that Members can only serve a maximum of six consecutive years on the Executive before being required to serve a two-year break. This Motion would require an amendment to Bye-Law 13.

Conclusion Of Democratic Structures Section
• The proposals made by the Clubs through the Forum, as listed above, are designed to aid democracy, efficiency, openness, transparency and unity.
• The Forum believes that these proposals represent a viable blueprint for the reform of Cork GAA’s Democratic Structures.
• The Forum’s proposals will not result in a radical change to existing structures but will result in the revision of the Bye-Laws to ensure that the existing structures can better serve the Clubs and Cork GAA.

Section 2 – Communications Issues
Introduction To Communication Issues Section
Effective communication is the lifeblood of organisations. It involves the exchange of information and ideas resulting in a shared mutual understanding
• The impasse at the beginning of 2009 within Cork GAA circles was largely due to a serious breakdown in communications between the Cork County Board and the Clubs.
• Delegates at the Cork GAA Clubs’ Forum, engaged in an open and frank discussion in relation to all aspects of the GAA within the County and proposals were made as to how best improve the dearth in communication between the Clubs and the County Board.
• This breakdown in communications had previously been adverted to by delegates at various meetings held in early Spring 2009 and acknowledged by high ranking officers of the Board at the Clubs’ information meeting at the Rochestown Park and later when said officers visited the various divisions some time ago.
• It is also interesting to note that newly installed Uachtarán CLG Mr. Christy Cooney has made better communications one of the major planks of his Presidency and has initiated the “Ag Éisteacht” programme to improve matters in this regard.

1. Current Situation
• GAA in Cork commands huge support throughout a broad spectrum of society. It is the envy of all other sporting organisations. Hurling and football command a very high level of interest and participation among our young people. Consequently, a huge level of goodwill exists towards our Clubs and towards our Inter-County teams as evidenced by the numbers of supporters travelling to games, despite the current financial gloom.
• For Cork to succeed in an ever-demanding environment, communications between the Clubs, their members, and the CCB must undergo some much-needed improvements. Communications between the CCB and the Clubs and members, which it represents, is poor.
• Clubs and their members feel isolated from the decisions made at Board level. Ordinary members are usually unaware of important issues taken at County and National level, which may affect their own Club.
• The CCB is made up of Delegates from Senior and Intermediate Clubs and Divisional Delegates represent the Junior Clubs. The CCB only communicates decisions taken at Board level to their Clubs through the delegates and the media.
• The CCB is perceived as being a “closed” organisation, slow to change and unwilling to embrace any new technology or ideas which would greatly improve and enhance communications and the understanding between it and its affiliated Clubs.
• Marketing of the Cork GAA brand is poor and merchandise for young people and adults is almost nonexistent.
• Ordinary members of GAA Clubs receive much of their information on the workings of the CCB, and the decisions taken there, from the media and supporters’ websites and very little via their Clubs.
• A new website has been produced in recent months but it has very little relevant information and is not an adequate resource to Clubs and supporters.

2. Strategy
• The CCB needs to connect with the people it represents.
• It needs to communicate its plans, long term goals etc to the public.
• More importantly it needs to listen to the GAA community of Cork: their views, concerns and ideas.
• When this happens, Cork will be a stronger team both on and off the pitch.

3. Clubs
• Delegates are appointed by their Clubs to represent them at various County Board meetings. All major decisions on CCB policy, strategic planning etc must be made by Clubs and therefore correspondence to Board delegates should also be e mailed to all Club secretaries.
• A bulletin from the CCB outlining proposed discussions at the upcoming County Board meeting would enable Clubs to discuss in detail major decisions which are to be taken at Board level and to instruct their delegates accordingly. This bulletin should be sent with the minutes of previous meeting and the agenda for the upcoming meeting.
• The Constitution of the CCB and its Bye-Laws should be e-mailed to each Club and made available on the website.
• The offices at Páirc Uí Chaoimh should be modernised and be made more accessible to Club Secretaries and Public Relation Officers. A modern phone system should be installed to facilitate voice mail and messaging services, and a welcoming alternative to the ‘confessional-box’ shutter which currently represents the face of Cork GAA offices should be found.
• Most Club secretaries use e-mail as a means of correspondence and the CCB should continue to use and develop this form of communication (as has been practice in recent weeks) to contact Clubs and keep them updated. Forms, match notifications, and other literature should be sent and returned by e-mail.

4. Public
• The GAA public needs to connect more with the CCB and be made more aware of its policies and projects.
• A regular slot on local radio stations and a printed monthly supplement with some of the provincial press would help in this regard. This publication should include upcoming coaching courses, rule changes, progress on underage development squads, information on County teams, etc.
• Communications from the public to the CCB must also be made more accessible and a dedicated e-mail address set up for people to use.
• The CCB also needs to connect with the future of the GAA and should make an effort to visit Post Primary schools to encourage students and to promote our games as is the practice with other sporting organisations. The workings of the Board could be explained and, in turn, students could voice their concerns and how they perceive the CCB. The interest and goodwill of the youth is paramount if the GAA is to prosper into the future.

5. Website
• The new Cork GAA website, while welcome, is inadequate but with some proper planning it possesses huge potential.
• It needs to be a resource for Clubs, Players, Coaches, and the public in general. • There should be a dedicated section for coaching material and aids for all coaches and players.
• There should be a resource section for Clubs where secretaries could download forms. An FAQ section for Clubs should also be available.
• An online shop should also be included where the public could purchase clothing merchandise and other Cork GAA branded goods.
• A history section should also be created. This could include downloads of old match programmes, photographs etc.
• With the correct use of links the possibilities of websites are endless. Most people have access to websites today and if the Cork GAA site is set up properly it can be a huge communication tool for the CCB.

6. Branding
• The merchandising of our County is almost nonexistent and we need to be cognizant of how other sporting organisations, most notably the Munster Rugby Branch, market their products.
• A Cork GAA shop should be opened in Cork City Centre and branded products should be available there and in other outlets across the County.
• A shop should be opened on match days at Páirc Uí Chaoimh and Páirc Uí Rinn.
• League and championship match days should be seen as family occasions and more of an effort put into entertaining the crowds before games.
• The Cork GAA brand should be something that young people feel an allegiance to and it should be protected and developed.

Conclusion Of Communication Issues Section
• The CCB must present a proper image, (especially to the youth), an image of efficiency, activity, development, and value in the community. Without good communications, both internally and externally, the CCB can never achieve understanding from all of its audiences, stakeholders and supporters.
• Some of these new ways of communicating will cost money to implement, some will be self-financing, some will deliver a profit, but the alternative is to continue on our current path.
• The CCB needs to be seen by everyone in a different way. It must be seen as an organisation that works for Clubs, is progressive, and is open to new ideas. It should be seen as a support organisation to clubs and not an organisation to be feared or ridiculed. For these changes to work the CCB must adopt a different approach to the way and the manner in which it communicates, both internally and externally.

Section 3 – Development Issues
Introduction To Development Items Section
• In any organisation the need for continuous development and improvement is important to ensure that the organisation grows and develops.
• The need for further development at County level was identified by all Clubs as an urgent priority and particularly in the area of Coaching and Games Development.
• Under Development the following issues were raised at the various Clubs Forum workshops and meetings:-

1. Develop and Implement a 10 year Rolling Development Plan for Cork GAA
• This plan should seek input from all stakeholders and be updated and implemented. The plan should cover all aspects of Cork GAA.
• The plan should also include deadlines for completion of the various parts.

2. Coaching and Games Development Plan
• Develop a co-ordinated Coaching and Games Development Plan for the County.
• This is to be a co-ordinated plan for the County that drills down to all levels, has the necessary resources and funding behind it, and involves input and effort from all stakeholders including clubs, schools, County Board, teachers, coaches and other relevant parties.
• The plan should be tailored to enable each Division to progress and manage its own parts with an overall representative Management Structure at County Board level to oversee.
• This plan should assess and consider the best practice in operation in other Counties.
• The benefits to our games and to County teams from such a plan will be greater participation, greater performance and a return to our successes of the past.
• This can be seen from Counties such as Dublin, which has 50 full time coaches and is consequently enjoying a meteoric upturn in underage and now senior success, Tyrone who are living through the most successful period in their history and are now universally considered a leading force in football, and our great hurling rivals Kilkenny whose hurling dominance follows on from their unified adherence to such a plan.
• Cork, meanwhile, with far greater resources, have not won an All-Ireland in Under-21 hurling in eleven years, minor hurling in eight years, or minor football in nine years, with only the Under-21 footballers enjoying recent success (in 2007 and 2009).
• There is a great willingness and desire at Club level to develop our games that can be tapped into. However it is felt that a more co-ordinated County structure is needed.
• Failure will see Cork GAA lose further ground to other Counties, other sports and other pastimes.

a. The Coaching And Games Plan Should
• Develop a sustainable structured County coaching and games development structure.
• Promote increased participation in our games.
• Improve skill levels at all levels for players and coaches.
• Use all available resources and tools to implement the plan.
• Be kept under constant review including considering best practice in other counties.
• Be a co-ordinated plan between all parties to ensure maximum communication and benefits.

b. Structure
• Proposed structures are shown in Appendices 1 and 2 attached and involve the setting up of a County Coaching and Games Development Workgroup. This Workgroup to be made up of representatives from all interested parties such as County Board, Clubs, coaches, schools, colleges, Divisional committee representatives and other relevant parties.
• The plan also involves:
- Appointing a County Games Development Manager and an adequate number of Coaches to each Division.
- Appointing Divisional Games Development Committees to co-ordinate activities in each Division as sub-committee of Divisional Boards, with similar make up.
- Establishing a Centre of Excellence including all weather pitches, conference centre, hurling walls, indoor areas etc.
- Appointing coaches to all primary and secondary schools.

c. Main activities:
• Schools coaching for all primary and secondary schools.
• Summer camps.
• Coaching education programmes for coaches in all Clubs – levels 1, 2, 3 in juvenile, teenage and adult sections.
• Encourage bottom-up approach in coaching with Clubs, schools.
• Development squads for U14, U15, U16, U17 including coaching, individual training plans, diet etc. Key is co-ordination between all managers of these squads including links with County Minor squad and manager.
• Implement Code of Best Practice for Youth Sport.
• Go games programme U8, U10 and U12s.
• Regular workshops on coaching and player development using top County players, and coaches.
• Féile competitions.
• Schools competitions.

d. Funding
Funding for the Coaching and Games Development Plan can be sourced from:-
- Cork GAA draw.
- County Board contribution.
- Sponsors.
- Divisional Boards.
- A separate fundraising group.

3. Continual Training Programmes for Officers/Clubs
• On Club operation.
• GAA rules.
• Club development.
• Deliver regular training to all Clubs.

4. Develop a 10 year Development Plan for Páirc Uí Chaoimh
The plan should include such items as:-
• Match-day ticketing arrangements and access to stadium needs urgent attention. Current system poses a major Health & Safety risk.
• Modernise dressing rooms.
• Floodlights.
• Better seating for all patrons.
• Improvements to general look and condition of the facility.
• Improved toilet facilities.
• Warm-up areas.
• Improved catering facilities for players and patrons.
• Match-day shops to market Cork GAA merchandise.
• Improved roads, footpaths, tarmac around outside of stadium.
• Improved reception area.
• Improved communication systems such as phones,computers etc.

5. Revamp the GAA Grants Schemes
• To ensure development money is available to Clubs particularly the funds received from the opening of Croke Park to rugby and soccer a more transparent system of grant aid is needed.
• Clubs want to develop, and need access to various funding schemes available.

6. Cork GAA Supporters Club
• Set up a Cork GAA Supporters Club to assist with fundraising and support for all Cork GAA activities, and to foster increased participation and belonging.
• Open a Cork GAA shop at a location in the City Centre to market and sell Cork GAA products.

Conclusion To Development Issues Section
The Development proposals included in this report are intended to keep Cork at the top of list in terms of:-
• Team quality and success.
• Quality of our County playing facilities.
• Promotion and development of our games.

Report Conclusion
Democracy, communication and development - none of these ideas are radical; none ought to be particularly burdensome. Together they reflect the desires of the Clubs of Cork and the future of the GAA in Cork.

Individually, each of the suggestions contained in this report amounts to a small step. Taken together, they amount to a path to sustained future success for the GAA in Cork.

Listening to the views of representatives from Clubs throughout the County while compiling this report, the members of the Forum have been struck by the willingness of volunteers all over Cork to work harder for the advancement of our games. At a time when the personal challenges faced by many of the members of the GAA in Cork are as severe as they have been in many generations, there remains a real desire and determination to do what it takes to ensure that our games are promoted and cherished and that our County reaches the maximum of its potential. The members of the Forum and the clubs we have consulted firmly believe that the suggested advancements in democracy, communication, and development contained in this report can deliver those benefits.

Recent events have cast a shadow across the image of the GAA in Cork. We believe that the implementation of this report through the combined efforts of the Cork County Board, the Forum and the Club Members can help to lift that shadow and to once again make Cork synonymous with success and Cork GAA synonymous with co-operation, innovation and the advancement of the ideals of the GAA.

Corcaigh agus an CLG Abú.

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