Shame on the GAA for enforcing this no-cash, card-only policy

The least the GAA can do for older fans is give them the opportunity to keep accessing games in a manner they’ve been used to all their lives, says John Arnold
Shame on the GAA for enforcing this no-cash, card-only policy

The GAA has come under fire for enforcing a cashless policy for matches. Picture: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

THE other day, I was rummaging through bits and pieces I’d written over the years.

I must have been remembering the time, in the last century, when I was ‘out on the Wran’ of a St Stephen’s Day.

I was recalling the pennies, ha’pennies, three-penny bits, tanners, shillings, florins and half-crowns that we’d collect. In those days, 60 years ago, if I possessed a ten-shilling note, shure ‘twould be the same as €500 today!

Anyhow, this is what I wrote; Who would have thought back then that a time would come when money could issue forth from a ‘hole in the wall’, or that by typing a series of numbers and letters on a keyboard of a computer, one could complete a financial transaction, buying or selling something and ne’er a coin or a note changing hands?

Yes indeed, all’s changed, utterly changed. I suppose it’s what we call progress in some ways. No good, I suppose, in looking back through rose-tinted glasses at the way we were because change is inevitable.

Ah yes indeed, no point in being like King Canute - trying to hold back the tide - but I’m a conservative, not a Tory now, mind, but definitely a conservative.

Holding onto tradition is nothing to be ashamed of, though nowadays there seems to be a lemming-like fashion to rid society of everything that has seemed normal to previous generations!

I am totally disgusted at the way the Covid pandemic of the last few years has been used to make a subtle change to something as basic as going to a GAA game.

When the Covid hit, everything was changed. Initially, Irish society was closed down - and I’ve no problem saying that was a very correct and proper decision, in view of a completely unknown and invisible ‘enemy’.

When things opened up a bit, sports fixtures resumed firstly behind closed doors and later with restricted and reduced attendances. In order to avoid any chance of cross-contamination through handling cash at sports venues, the concept of ‘all ticket’ games came in.

True, for a few years prior to this we had become accustomed to all-ticket All Ireland finals, but for most other games, one could walk up to the turnstile, pay your money, and in you went.

I had no problem accepting the new cashless regime while the Covid pandemic still prevailed - everyone was trying their best to stop the spread of this ‘new’ disease.

I was lucky enough to have been able to attend the All Ireland finals behind closed doors in an empty Croke Park, during that dark period. 

Like so many thousands of other GAA fans, I presumed that once the Covid threat had passed, things would go back to ‘normal’.

My definition of normality recognised the increasing use of credit cards, but also included the facility to keep using cash - until some Government or Central Bank declares that cash is no longer Legal Tender. If and when that day dawns - and I doubt if it will anytime soon - well then, so be it.

Now that the Covid threat has largely subsided, it upsets me greatly that the GAA and others have become the ‘cute hoors’ by refusing at local and national level to allow the use of cash anymore for entry to games.

I have raised the issue at meetings over the last 12 months but have been stonewalled - basically told ‘grow up’ and come forward to ‘the real world’.

Statistics are mighty and can be manipulated whichever way one wants to arrive at the desired answer. They say the end justifies the means - most people have credit cards and if they haven’t they know a friend or relative that has one; therefore, everyone should be able to get the use of one and pre-purchase match tickets.

So much for people’s privacy, so much for personal independence.

Furthermore, I and others who are of my way of thinking have been told that only a tiny, tiny number of fans have turned up at match venues without tickets. What does that prove? Only that older people who always went to GAA games and haven’t the technology or connectivity to computers or laptops simply stay at home.

The GAA has disenfranchised a huge cohort of older fans -many have given lifetimes of service to the Association but are now cast aside -truly their money isn’t good enough.

As I said, initially no-one wants to go back to all-cash games - I know that will never happen. No-one wants to ban the use of cards, tapping devices and other modern modems - no. I have absolutely no issue with the majority of people who seldom use cash anymore. That’s the way society is going and there’s no point in crying over spilt milk.

A few weeks back, the National Council for Ageing & Older People joined the debate. The Council’s CEO called on the GAA and other sporting bodies to reconsider the cashless only option. Recognising the way goods and services are now being purchased, there was no call to ban pre-bought tickets, online sales or anything like that. Simply, side by side with the ‘modern way of doing things’, why not have just one gate at every venue where notes and coins can still be taken?

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar voiced his support for such a policy. It’s called ‘a common-sense approach’, but as we all know common sense is a scarce commodity.

The GAA at national level has refused to change its policy and it seems the very same applies at County Board level. I was told having one ‘cash gate’ would be unworkable as, once its existence at venues was made known, long queues would arrive there!

Talk about reverse logic - we have been told the ‘vast majority’ of patrons are able to pre-buy their tickets without a problem, so where are the crowds with the cash going to come from?

Surely, while cash is legal tender, the least we can do for our older fans is give them the opportunity to keep accessing our games in a manner they’ve been used to all their lives?

Of course there is a cost in handling and banking cash, and a security cost, but to my mind it’s a small price well worth paying. It’s the least that followers who have been the bedrock of the GAA for decades deserve.

Isn’t it laughable and hypocritical too that a ‘no cash here’ policy is being implemented at GAA stadia all over the country, but once inside the gates, if you want a programme, a bag of chips, a drink, a bar of chocolate or an ice-cream, cash is perfectly acceptable - I think that’s what they call ‘double standards’!

The GAA is an Association that has a long and honourable history. Long before any Sports Capital Grants, Lotto Grants or Recreational Funding Grants were even thought of, men and women in every parish, village, town and city in Ireland fund-raised for their clubs to buy pitches and provide facilities for players.

Like me long ago, ‘out on the Wran’ they gathered the tanners, shillings, florins, half crowns and ten-bob notes to make GAA dreams a reality for their communities. For many their ‘reward’ in 2023 is to be treated like second class citizens - shameful, isn’t it?

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