GPA hopeful football proposals will be considered

GPA chiefs insist their radical football championship blueprint should not be ignored by Croke Park bosses.

GAA president Aogán Ó Fearghail on Saturday insisted no proposal advocating an increase in the number of inter-county games will be considered.

However, GPA head of communications Sean Potts believes there is still a chance their proposal will feature on the Congress clár next spring.

GPA chief executive Dessie Farrell, when launching their blueprint back in October, pleaded with the GAA to take “a bold step” and introduce “meaningful reform”.

To overlook their proposal, added Potts, is to overlook the majority view of the county players.The structure put forward by the players body centres on a Champions League-style format after the conclusion of the provincial competitions which would see almost 40 extra championship games added to the inter-county calendar.

“To immediately rule out what the players have endorsed, I believe at this juncture, would be disappointing and due consideration needs to be given to these proposals and why they are there,” commented Potts.

“We would still be hopeful that due consideration will be given to our proposal and to pre-empt that process is disappointing. The increase in the number of games we are proposing is to enhance the playing experience and this is what the players want.

“Those who are prepared to go on the record to oppose that need to realise they are opposing the views of the players who are playing the game.”

At their AGM in Athlone on Saturday, the GPA passed a motion calling on Croke Park top-brass to reconsider their opinion. It is an aspiration of the GPA to move from a training culture to a playing culture. To do that there must be more games.

“Our motions aren’t fait accompli. They are recommendations based on the views of our membership, based on the research of the GPA and consultation with different stakeholders.

“We would hope they would influence the people who are tasked with putting structures in place. Everybody agrees change is needed.” With GAA chiefs keen to introduce reform that ends the squeeze on the club player, Potts expressed concern at the efforts of certain individuals who he believes are attempting to “drive a wedge” between the club and inter-county player.

“We take great exception to those, who at this point of the year, try to pit the club player against the county player. When the dust has settled on the inter-county scene, this happens frequently. The inter-county player is also a club player and wants a meaningful structure at club level also.”

He continued: “We have to look at the concerns of the player who is harnessed commercially by the Association, the person who is considered the ideal role model by those playing our games.

“We have to remember that 80% of the funding that is generated for the wider Association is generated off the back of the inter-county game and it is roughly the same percentage that is redistributed throughout the Association.

“They are considerations we had to look at when formulating our proposals. We have also seen this year that overlapping inter-county fixtures wasn’t the sole reason for a backlog in club fixtures.” The GPA are also encouraging the GAA to put in place a plan to protect the most vulnerable players - those aged 18-21 - should director general Páraic Duffy’s call to abolish the U21 football championship fail at Congress.

“If that is voted out, what happens? What will happen is that the problems that are there presently and the demands that are put on this age bracket, the pulling and dragging of players for three to five months of the year, will pertain. One of the recommendations of a report we produced earlier in the year was replacing the U21 grade with an U20 grade, with the view to taking out the number of players who have dual responsibility.

“We fear that getting rid of the U21 would be too drastic a move for the wider Association to accept and that we will end up back at square one.”

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