The GPA has hit back swiftly at GAA director general Tom Ryan’s claims that the soaring cost of inter-county teams' preparations is "unsustainable".
The GAA's financial report for 2019 described as “alarming” the increase in team costs by 12% last year, rising to €30m.
However, a hard-hitting GPA statement has expressed disappointment at this portrayal, suggesting it is a ploy to “keep players down, to make them feel like they are lucky to be involved in the games”.
After reasserting its determination to help “delivering a modern form of sustainable amateurism”, the GPA statement adds: “It is disappointing for our members, that the inter-county game to which they dedicate 31 hours of their time each week, as they proudly represent their counties, is once again being presented as the GAA’s problem child.
“Therefore, in the midst of the record-breaking revenues of €73.9m reported for 2019 (up 16%), which are primarily and overwhelmingly generated off the inter-county games, it is disappointing to see that it is the so-called unsustainable costs of those inter-county games commanding such a share of the GAA’s attention.
“Instead we should be celebrating the inter-county games for the success story that they are. The resources our members help generate enable the GAA to be the fantastic community and club-based organisation it is.”
The GAA accounts report that 84 cents in every €1 of revenue is reinvested across the association and the GPA statement points out that approximately 90% of that revenue is generated from the inter-county game.
“49% by gate receipts, 27% by commercial income (sponsorship and media), 14% by distribution from Croke Park. All of these are attributable to the inter county games.
“Our inter-county games are the revenue generating machine that allows the GAA to compete with rugby, soccer and other sports for hearts and minds of the Irish public. Our inter-county games are the flagship promotional and developmental tool that keeps the GAA in the news and journalists, pundits, administrators, coaches, physios and all the other professionals working within the inter county games in jobs. Our inter-county games allow the GAA to thrive on the field and financially.
“We have seen this ploy of painting inter county games in a negative light used consistently to keep players down, to make them feel like they are lucky to be involved in the games. Make no mistake, the players, past and present, are proud to represent their counties at the highest level but the GAA is also lucky to have those players who give so much of themselves, often to their own detriment, to allow it generate the revenues that keeps the association afloat.”
The statement also highlights Gaelic players’ wider contribution to the domestic economy.
“Inter-county fixtures generate a total economic impact of €390m annually, supporting 3,600 jobs and directly contributing over €40m to the exchequer. This at a time when many of our players can barely make ends meet and in many cases cannot.
“It is our view that the role of inter county games and our players to the overall health of the GAA, as evidenced in the Annual Report, needed to be acknowledged.
On a more conciliatory note, the GPA statement commits to “keeping lines of dialogue to the GAA open”.
“Their Annual Report is a comprehensive and thought-provoking document and we urge everyone with an interest in Gaelic games, but particularly our members, to give it the consideration it deserves.
“For the past six months the GPA have been speaking about the need to work towards building a modern form of sustainable amateurism where our members can have balance between their playing, personal and professional lives. We have done this both publicly when speaking to the media and also privately in our ongoing meetings with the GAA and other stakeholders.
“We welcome the fact that this sort of language is reflected in GAA Director General Tom Ryan’s commentary. Delivering a modern form of sustainable amateurism will be a central tenet of our new Strategic Plan which is close to being finalised. There will be differences between what that sustainability looks like for players and for the GAA but we will work on the players’ behalf to find the desired balance.
“We also acknowledge the Director General’s constructive comments on the ongoing negotiations between the GPA and the GAA. We will keep lines of dialogue to the GAA open in this regard as we work towards achieving a new deal for our members.”