The Club Players Association (CPA) has painted a damning portrait of the GAA’s determination to tackle its fixtures difficulties as they confirmed their withdrawal from a body charged with addressing them.
Describing the national fixtures taskforce set up by GAA president John Horan as “a Trojan horse” and believing the leadership of the organisation to have been disingenuous, CPA chairman Micheál Briody yesterday confirmed they could no longer be part of the committee.
In a statement responding to the development, the GAA expressed surprise and disappointment at the decision for the CPA representative, national secretary Michael Higgins, to depart the body “at such an advanced stage and given that the work of the taskforce is nearing its completion”.
Established in June, it will meet for a final time this evening before delivering a report to Central Council. However, the CPA couldn’t countenance putting their name to it as they “will not be an accomplice to the entrenchment of the status quo.”
It’s the contention of Briody and his fellow executive members that the taskforce was “a Trojan horse designed to give cover to the GAA authorities to ratify the status quo while having the appearance of consultation and thoughtful deliberation. In reality, it will simply be a ratification process for the newly introduced tier-two football championship and retention of the Super 8s”.
Asked at yesterday’s press briefing in Blanchardstown if he felt GAA leadership were disingenuous when Horan said “nothing would be off the table” at a meeting with the CPA in May, Briody said: “Yes, I think so. If you look at all the efforts we have made, genuine efforts and genuine work we’ve put in, saying, ‘Look, these are better options, let’s look at that’. But yeah, I would say it would be definitely disingenuous.”
Briody admitted there had been a reluctance among some CPA executive members to get involved in the taskforce for reasons such as the short timeframe for it to do its work but voted to do so in “good faith”. They had asked for an independent chairman “of the GAA” but “not from the GAA”.
They had also requested an individual qualified in sports science to be added as a member “given that player welfare and injury prevention is a primary consideration in fixture loading”, but it was not supported.
Horan picked his own chairman, Eddie O’Sullivan, and included individuals on the committee who the CPA felt were “insiders” and “would be defensive and protective of decisions that were made previously”.
The CPA, as well as the Gaelic Players Association who also had representation on the taskforce, opposed the second-tier championship vote at Special Congress last month believing it to hamper the body. On the other hand, Horan maintained it would provide them with a platform.
What also raised red flags was what Higgins felt was the lack of respect shown to the CPA’s initial work and submissions from members of the public.
“We were presented with three options on August 1, while also being asked to look at the public submissions.
"Those three options have dominated subsequent discussions. Those were the only three options ever on the table. The CPA took it upon themselves to do it and to present (proposals) to the taskforce. We made the best effort we could and we obviously weren’t getting tractionwithin the taskforce itself.”
The final straw came in recent weeks when O’Sullivan, the chairman, wouldn’t allow a vote on a CPA option for the fixtures calendar to be included in the report. “I think the fact that they didn’t entertain a vote on either of our proposals just was a manifestation of the process being flawed from the beginning,” said Higgins.
“We don’t believe that they were every really intending on accepting any ideas that we might come up with.
“We wouldn’t claim that those ideas were perfect but we tried as best we could in the context of the taskforce and the feedback that was being discussed, to come up with plans that we felt met as much of the criteria as possible.”
In their press release, the CPA questioned the GAA’s marketing campaign earlier this year.
“The (CPA) membership has been inundated with rhetoric in 2019 of ‘Where We All Belong’ at the same time as our association is fast becoming an organisation who no longer prioritises the association as a community-based Gaelic games and culture organisation with the club and the club player at its core”.
CPA executive members were keen not to promote a strike by club players. However, their statement read:
“The reality is one of players voting with their feet and deciding that they do not all belong with their clubs and their team-mates.
They also ruled out the possibility of forwarding their calendar proposals via a club having failed with motions via that route before. Briody added:
“I think it’s inevitable that if the taskforce brings something and it’s supported by Central Council and the Management Committee and all the ex-presidents and the overseas, something that a club or county puts in will be taken off the Clár, even in advance.”
In their statement, the GAA acknowledged the CPA had fully engaged throughout the process of the taskforce: “The work of the taskforce continues and will be completed later this month. At that stage, any proposals brought forward will be considered and decisions taken by the broader Association on the appropriate next steps.”
Briody and Higgins were joined yesterday by fellow executive members Liam Griffin, Tommy Kenoy, Joan Kehoe, Anthony Moyles, John Hanniffy, and Greg Devlin.
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