Cllr welcomes GAA’s ‘review’ of cashless concerns
The war of words between a Cavan councillor and the County GAA Board over cashless ticketing has gone into extra-time, the latter admitting it may have been overly eager to substitute traditional tender for a fully digital system.
However, a rematch is unlikely, given the County Board remains steadfast that ‘it is no longer feasible to provide a cash turnstile at each venue’ regardless of opposition.
The opinion was outlined in a letter received by the council, dated December 2, and signed by the now retired long-time county secretary, Liam McCabe.
Aontú’s Sarah O’Reilly welcomed the “unexpected” response. It was she who, at the October monthly meeting, tabled the first motion asking that the council flag concerns over difficulties faced by match-day punters accessing digital tickets.
Following that, Cllr O’Reilly returned in November saying she’d received a “very angry phonecall” criticising her comments.
“They wanted me to know that they were volunteers and I was a ‘paid politician’,” she explained at the time. “I was told that I was ‘looking for headlines’ and ‘I was attention seeking’. I was told not to send a letter from the council and that, if one was sent, it would not be responded to, it would be going into the bin.”
The letter to the council stated how the County Board had been left ‘disappointed’ by the ‘tone of the debate’ in October where the ‘focus of attention appears to have fallen onto one voluntary organisation’.
It went on to say that the GAA was ‘already well down’ the road in terms of adopting cashless systems, both at national and provincial level. The move was ‘initially prompted’ by COVID-19 to ensure attendances were ‘kept within’ health parameters but, having ‘experienced the benefits’, the County Board decided to ‘continue with the roll out’ at all games in 2022.
The digital ticketing system operated is in partnership with local tech start-up ClubSpot and the transition ‘is proving successful’ assured Mr McCabe, with 119,022 tickets covering 409 games administered over the course of a full season.
From a ‘governance perspective’ the benefits have also been ‘substantial’.
Income is ‘now channelled via a single app’, eliminating all ‘risks’ associated with handling. ‘Gone are the days when a volunteer, having already given up their time, is expected to leave a GAA ground following a championship match with the added responsibility of taking control of and accounting for substantial amounts of cash.'
Mr McCabe continued that, while there will ‘inevitably’ be teething issues with new technology, the County Board is ‘acutely aware’ of how the ‘change process’ impacts certain sections of society. In recognition of this all volunteers manning games have been ‘advised to apply a commonsense approach to admittance’ while the new system becomes ‘embedded’.
‘While Cavan GAA acknowledges that the concerns as to specific cases are raised in good faith, it is of the view that these are isolated incidents in the overall scheme of things.'
The Co Board’s letter concluded that the argument for cash options on match days ‘needs to be viewed in context’.
It was their view ‘at this juncture’ that adopting a ‘hybrid model’ could only ‘undermine the success’ made in transitioning to date. ‘When the GAA season is in full swing, Cavan GAA hosts on average up to 28 games weekly at multiple venues throughout the county. The reality is that it is no longer feasible to provide a cash turnstile at each venue.
‘The GAA season is now drawing to a close. It is standard practice for Cavan GAA to review all of it operations at year end. That will include a review of the digital ticketing system and the potential for improvement. The concerns expressed by Elected Members will be considered as part of that review.’
The GAA reply ended by saying ‘policy’ on such matters is for the County Committee to decide as they ‘are the governing and controlling body of the affairs of the Association within the county’.
Commenting, Cllr O’Reilly disagreed that a hybrid model would undo progress. “I don’t believe it will,” she said, telling the December meeting a cashless and digital model “has been very successful in Kildare where they use a top-up card system very successfully".
She welcomed that the concerns of elected members will be considered as part of the review.
Thanking the local media helping to highlight the subject, Cllr O’Reilly stressed her belief that the cashless issue is “much, much bigger than we are led to believe”.
Cllr O’Reilly meanwhile congratulated Martin Cahill on his recent elevation to the newly created position of Head of Operations at Cavan GAA.
“I wish him well in his role,” she said.