Amateurism in an Age of Professionalism: An Empirical Examination of an Irish Sporting Culture: The GAA
Keywords:GAA, player welfare, Gaelic Players Association, amateur ethos, Gaelic games, , professionalism, marketing, elite players.
AbstractThe Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) has been synonymous with the sporting tradition of Ireland since 1884, and the links it has developed with the parishes and communities of Ireland have been based on the organization’s ethos of volunteerism and amateurism in Gaelic games. Modern Ireland has brought with it many challenges for the GAA, especially in relation to internal and external issues. The dynamic of sport in Ireland has changed with the introduction of professionalism in soccer and rugby, and this has caused the validity of the amateur status of the Gaelic Athletic Association to be questioned. The development of professional sports brands, such as ‘Munster Rugby’, and ‘Leinster Rugby’, has been achieved through an aggressive marketing policy within the rugby fraternity. This research is an examination of the Gaelic Athletic Association as an amateur sporting organization in an era of professionalism in Ireland. This study is particularly focused on analyzing the elements of the GAA that contribute to its success and investigating the competitive relationship between the GAA and the growth of professionalism in sport. The amateur ethos is defined in this research as a key metric for sustaining an amateur organization in an environment where the era of professional sports is becoming more prevalent in Ireland. The empirical research gathered for this study was based on a qualitative methodology consisting of 18 semi-structured, face to face interviews with individuals who had relevant but varied experience within the GAA, such as players, coaches, managers and administrators. This research study recommends that the GAA adopt an innovative approach, through strategic decision-making, to allow the GAA to maintain its amateur ethos, and, yet, successfully compete in the professional sporting market. The strong links with the community must be both nurtured and enhanced. The GAA and Gaelic games must embrace the challenges that the branding success of foreign sports has brought. Player welfare issues for the elite players must be addressed while continuing to protect the club and its amateur structures. The study looks at the key metrics that are required to evolve the GAA. This entails not only focusing on the perceived importance of the amateur ethos to the GAA, but also developing the marketing, branding and profiling of Gaelic games to enhance the performance of an amateur sporting organization in an era of increased professionalism in sport.
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