The way that the GAA have managed to makes such a complete hames of the Paul Galvin affair is wholly expected and, in light of the three-step disciplinary machinery that’s in existence, it was almost certain to end up in a mess like this at some point. You can’t really blame Paul Galvin (even if he is Paul Galvin), given that this is his only shot at being Kerry captain and so has a better than average chance of hoisting the Sam above his head come September. He’s merely availing of the extremely accommodating appeals process and, let’s be honest, if any one of us were in the same position, we’d do exactly the same.
The attitude of the Kerry county board and the various Kerry grandees (including ex-President Sean Kelly, who was partly responsible for setting up the current disciplinary machinery) is another matter but, then again, their near neighbours in Cork have spent years undermining rules and regulations they were supposed to be upholding. The fact that these auspicious Kerrymen are doing what they can to better their county’s chances of a 36th All-Ireland makes it all a bit unedifying but it would probably be a bigger surprise if they hadn’t made any attempt to get their man off. (Galvin’s mother weighing in on the Joe Duffy Show yesterday, however, has to be viewed as a step too far. One can only imagine how this will be used by players squaring up to the Finuge man in the future. He might find his hard man routine at bit more difficult to pull off with taunts of “Where’s your mammy now?” ringing in his ears).
What I have difficulty getting my head around is the extremely cumbersome disciplinary process that the GAA has saddled itself with and which, by its structure, seems set up to fail. What’s being dealt with here are suspensions from matches, not first-degree homicide and the punishments being meted out involve time on the sideline not on Death Row. So why have a disciplinary body (the CCCC), an appeals body (the CAC) and an Arbitration Body (the DRA, which even has its own website, which makes it look like one of those many bullshit agencies that twenty years of so-called “partnership” has spawned)? Surely it’s enough to have one body to oversee the entire disciplinary process (this works for professional soccer across the water, after all) with suspensions being dealt with on the basis of the referee’s report and where players affected would, in cases where they contest the charges, have the right to a personal hearing? Having two such bodies runs the risk of the appeal one becoming the de facto decision-making body for all suspensions. Having three separate bodies to oversee the disciplinary process is, frankly, ludicrous. So, then, three it is.
And what’s all this bullshit about “natural justice”? You don’t get natural justice on the pitch in terms of results (or else we’d surely have won the 1996 All-Ireland, Monaghan would have beaten Kerry in the quarters last year etc. etc.) so why should this form part of the disciplinary process? You have rules, you have suspensions in cases where rules are broken and if players break these rules, they get suspended. In this context, natural justice can go fuck itself.
I was chatting this whole thing over with a lawyer friend today and his take on it was that the Courts bore a good deal of responsibility for the mess that’s developed and that the appeals machinery – in particular the DRA element of it – bore all the hallmarks of a process that the lawyers had taken over. He reckoned that if the players who lodged High Court appeals against suspensions had been sent away with a flea in their ear by the learned gentlemen on the bench, then this many-headed disciplinary hydra would never have seen light of day. I think he has a point.
The question is where to go from here. In terms of the Paul Galvin affair, the CCCC are certain to impose some kind of suspension (after all, he did do this) but I’d be very surprised if this time, the suspension isn’t of the 12-week variety that most people (myself included) felt was sufficient for what occurred. You never know, if he does get 12 weeks, he might just be prepared to do his bird, regardless of what his mammy says.
In terms of the disciplinary process itself, the GAA are now in a right mess, though this has more to do with the Collie Moran appeal which appears, unlike the Galvin one, to have dealt with the merits of the case and not with technical procedures. The successful Moran appeal means that every proposed suspension from now on is sure to be appealed both to the CAC and the DRA and very quickly the whole machinery is likely to grind to a shuddering halt.
Three things need to happen to restore sanity to this area. The first is that county boards and the GAA apparatchiks on them need to stop running with the hare and chasing with the hounds on this issue. It’s simply ludicrous having those who make the GAA’s laws then expending so much energy trying to get around those laws when their own countymen get suspended. Nickey Brennan has spoken about the need for a “compliance culture” on discipline within the GAA but there’s absolutely no sign of such a culture emerging yet. The second is that county boards and players need to sign some kind of form committing them to abide 100% by the disciplinary machinery and not go running off to the Courts or wherever. The third is that the three discplinary organs should then be amalgamated into a single one-stop shop.
Come on in, CCCC-CAC-DRA, your time has come … but, of course, in the meantime we’re stuck with this three-handed pig’s breakfast of a set-up.