Since when did ‘amatuer’ become a bad word?

In the past two months both the FAI and the GAA have been contemplating the fundamentals of their respective organisations. Remarkably, much of the commentary on both of them has been very similar.

The FAI has been through the ringer of the Genesis which more or less said that the FAI should get people from outside to run the show. The GAA held the Special Congress to consider the generational Strategic Review Report and was excoriated in the press for not making wholesale changes to its management structures.

There’s a common theme here. It is now considered ‘progressive’ to use professional managers to run things while the old leadership – elected by some form of democracy – is discredited. Some commentators spoke of the FAI and GAA having too much democracy.

What this amounts to is a rubbishing of the amateur and volunteer ethic. In fact, the word ‘amateur’ is now considered an insult.

I find all this alarming. It is elitist rubbish. Actually, there is a touch of fascism to it. The idea is that the broad mass of people are somehow ignorant and illiterate. They should leave the running of things to the exalted, to the professionals.

I don’t like this. Firstly, it assumes each person has a single talent. I happen to believe that all people are multi-talented and that the idea that a person should specialise in one career over the period of their lives is a deeply regressive one.

My view is that a person can turn their hand to anything, especially if they are interested in it. So the officials who rise through the ranks of sporting organisations are not disqualified from running anything just because they haven’t got a degree from the Harvard School of Business.

On a broader note, the attempt to exclude amateurs and/or volunteers can only increase the alienation that is widely felt in society. If everything is supposed to be run by professionals then how can ordinary people feel in control of their lives?

If you want your car fixed – get a mechanic. If you want your windows cleaned – get a window cleaner. If you want an original idea – pay someone to think it up for you.

Do you get my drift?

There are signs that people are copping on to the fact that professionals don’t know everything. In the last 10 years, the alternative medicine movement has gained huge credibility, inversely proportional to the decline in the deity of doctors. Perhaps leaving the future of the country to professional planners and professional politicians might not be such a good thing after all. And so on.

I don’t want to just slag off the professional classes. But while expertise is useful you can’t write off the value of common sense, dedication or integrity that comes with the amateur.

Restricting the administration of organisations to professional managers is no guarantee that problems will go away. Rubbishing the contribution that amateurs and volunteers make in our society will guarantee greater problems to come.

As well as that…

Luas referee quits at half-time

The Light Rail Advisory and Action Group (LRAAG) was set up to report on the progress being made to deliver the Luas. They were the only independent means of monitoring the building of the Luas system.

Their final report – I said final – was in February 2002. The reason why they were wound up is that they were working to a Luas implementation timetable from 1998.

You couldn’t make this up. The group set up to oversee the building of the Luas quits 18 months before the building is finished.

You might not have heard of this group but their six-monthly reports filtered through the media and were an important source of reliable information about the whole project.

And now they’re gone. Because of an out-of-date timetable. It doesn’t augur well, does it?