GAA tells clubs not to use WhatsApp amid concerns over 'unsuitable material'

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The GAA is concerned over GDPR breaches and unsuitable material appearing on WhatsApp

The Gaelic Athletic Association [GAA] has said clubs should not use WhatsApp for communication purposes because it is not compliant with General Data Protection Regulation.

The GAA is also concerned about what it says is "unsuitable material" that has been made public via the service.

"It's just to make sure our members are being safeguarded," said GAA Data Protection Officer Kelly Cunningham.

The GAA is already developing its own communication app.

Ireland's largest sporting organisation, whose principal games are the hugely popular gaelic football and hurling, hopes the new communications app may be ready by this summer.

Speaking to RTE's Morning Ireland on Wednesday, GAA official Cunningham elaborated on the organisation's specific difficulties with WhatsApp.

"If an individual was to post something into a WhatsApp group and then remove themselves from the group, the administrators of the group can't remove that material afterwards," said Ms Cunningham.

"Basically our main aim is to help our volunteers to ensure sure that they don't unknowingly put themselves at risk of not complying with legislation."

GAA apologies over embarrassing material

GAA officials have had to apologise a number of occasions in recent years after embarrassing material appeared via social media and other online and messaging services.

In October 2017, a video emerged which showed players from Kilkenny club St Patrick's Ballyragget celebrating with two strippers after the team had won the county intermediate hurling title.

Last July, Tyrone football manager Mickey Harte apologised after a video showed personnel on the county's team bus shouting sectarian remarks at young people taking part in a band parade in Aughnacloy.

In October, footage of a group of players from Wicklow club Enniskerry falling off the back of a lorry while celebrating a county title was posted on various online messaging services and the GAA had to make an appeal asking for the material not to be further shared.

None of the players involved in the incident sustained serious injuries.

A further GAA statement on Wednesday afternoon said the organisation has had a social media policy in place since the introduction of GDPR in 2018.

The statement said the "GAA already has a GDPR compliant communications mechanism through its Games Management System, which enables multi-channel communications via email, SMS and in-app messaging".

It added that the GAA's position on the use of direct messaging apps applies only to "official communications and correspondence and not to a member's own personal use".