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Hypocrisy abounds around fees for School of Rock as Dubs star starts project

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ROCK ON: Dublin’s Dean Rock slots a late free in the 2017 All-Ireland final to steer his side to victory over Mayo

ROCK ON: Dublin’s Dean Rock slots a late free in the 2017 All-Ireland final to steer his side to victory over Mayo

SPORTSFILE

ROCK ON: Dublin’s Dean Rock slots a late free in the 2017 All-Ireland final to steer his side to victory over Mayo

The GAA has always had an interesting relationship with money. It is simultaneously volunteer-led and commercially-driven. It is community-based but a financial behemoth that boasts arguably the most saleable brand in the country.

Money pours in the door of Croke Park but pours out of it too. And when it's for the greater good, for projects rather than people and for infrastructure rather than individuals, no one seems to get too worked up about it.

But the example of Dean Rock's fees for free-taking sessions which set Twitter ablaze yesterday underlined the complicated issue in the association around individuals benefiting so openly from the game. The Dublin star has quoted €350 for two one-to-one sessions plus travel expenses, with further sessions coming in at €200.

A kicking school in Ballymun for a couple of dozen teenagers sold out quickly and there were further quotations for different packages.

Uneasy

But the reaction on social media shone a light on the uneasy and undefined relationship between the GAA and money, between volunteerism and commerciality which often operate side by side.

The dissatisfaction with the pricing is understandable. When the general idea is that you play and then give back in another way, asking for money is going to meet with resistance. But there's hypocrisy in that too.

How many clubs and counties hand over significant sums of money to managers and trainers each week? Under the table tax-free money that is funded by lottos and fundraisers. And when two high ranking GAA officials tried to tackle the thorny issue of under the table payments to managers, they hit brick walls.

Former Director General Páraic Duffy was left frustrated, noting in his final report that the association at the time liked the idea of safe guarding the amateur status but weren't prepared to grasp the nettle.

"The paper noted, in conclusion, that the GAA had to face the reality that doing nothing about the issue did not constitute a viable policy; it simply avoided the issue. In the end, unhappily, that is exactly what we did - we avoided the issue, and that remained the policy," Duffy's report of 2018 noted.

"The debate on the paper was a brief one, if, in fact, it could even be called a debate at all. I recall a meeting of county officers in Croke Park to consider the report. Overwhelming support was declared for maintaining our rules on amateurism, but even more obvious was a lack of enthusiasm for any attempt to implement the proposals made in the paper."

Succinct

Ex-president Peter Quinn was more succinct, famously quipping that his committee couldn't even find the tables, never mind the payments that were allegedly being made under them. 

Players benefit from their status in a host of other ways. They endorse products, are given cars to drive, a few free suits and maybe even a few dollars to play football abroad. And in the most part, people are happy to see them get along and wish them luck. But for some reason the advertising of a free-taking school doesn't fall under that category.

It feels like at least part of the unhappiness with Rock's pricing comes from the fact that he was up front about it. It's written there in black and white, for anyone to see and judge.

This morning, it's likely he feels he would have been better served by doing things quietly, by doing things the GAA way. Hit the medal presentation circuit. Smile for the camera and take the few quid and head off and say nothing. There's a good chance he wouldn't be a whole lot worse off for his evening's work. But somehow handing medals to U12s is more palatable than passing on actual skills.

For the free-taking school, he could have let word of mouth do his marketing for him. That way, there'd be no record. There'd only whispers and murmurs.

Rock's pricing feels high, though there's not much to benchmark it against. The two sessions comprise video analysis feedback so there's effort going in. And if it's a premium price then it's a premium service from the best in the business who has a track record in delivering in the biggest moments.

He's worked with likes of Dave Alred who in turn has been in the camps of the likes of Johnny Wilkinson and Francesco Molinari. Wilkinson delivered one of the most famous kicks in rugby history while the Italian kept his head while playing alongside the resurgent Tiger Woods to clinch his maiden major title, the British Open at Carnoustie in 2018.

In this case, a master of his craft is selling his wares. In a free market everyone else gets to decide whether they want to pay the price. The hypocrisy, however, is much harder to stomach.