WGPA focus on empowering players to make opt-out decision

WGPA focus on empowering players to make opt-out decision
Maria Kinsella: 'I hope everyone has the knowledge and respect to understand each player's decision.' Picture:Matt Browne/Sportsfile

WGPA chairperson Maria Kinsella is hopeful the one-third of female inter-county players likely to opt out of playing for 2020 because of coronavirus concerns will not be pressured back inside the whitewash.

A survey conducted by the Women’s GPA found that 32% of the 869 respondents are unlikely to play again this year over concerns around “personal safety” and “the health of others”.

Over half of those surveyed said their biggest worry in returning to action was the health of others close to them.

Camogie and ladies football county championships throw-in from next month, with inter-county competitions taking centre stage from mid-October.

Kinsella said the WGPA will now focus on empowering its members to communicate their decision to teammates and management, and, also, to ensure no pressure is put on players to row back on their decision to step away for the remainder of 2020.

Given the WGPA has a membership of just over 1,500 players, this survey and its standout finding regarding the percentage of players unwilling to return inside the whitewash represents a large sample size of the prevailing mood among female inter-county players. The 32% figure is almost double the number of male inter-county players who may not play again this year because of Covid-19 concerns.

“The response rate to this survey is way and above any of our previous surveys,” Kinsella remarked.

“Usually, we get between 25-40% of a response rate. Here, we got a 58% response rate.

"On the back of the findings, one of the main priorities of the WGPA over the next two to four weeks is empowering players to be comfortable in actually making that decision to opt out, communicating that to their teammates and management, and making sure there is not any judgment or pressure being placed on them as a result of their decision.

“We will see players opt out. Will it be as high as 32%, I don't know. Only time will tell. But it is now about empowerment because it is not an easy decision to make.

“If you are the only one within your squad that is putting up their hand and saying, ‘I'm opting out, guys’, what happens if this is your star forward. Is there then going to be pressure from management or her teammates to reconsider? I hope not. I hope everyone has the knowledge and respect to understand each player's decision.”

The WGPA chairperson believes the one-in-three figure is attributable to the number of female players working on the frontline, be they doctors, nurses, or physiotherapists.

“What we are hearing back from those who do work on the frontline is that they are super, super conservative of coming back to play a team sport and potentially increasing the risk of teammates being subjected to Covid-19.”

Two-thirds of those surveyed said they would be willing to train with their county panel prior to the start date - September 14 - for collective inter-county training. Fifty-nine percent believe the club/county overlap from September 14 to October 11 means there is insufficient time to properly prepare for the resumption of inter-county activity.

Kinsella said the GAA, LGFA, and Camogie Association need to either enforce the ban on inter-country training until September 14 or sanction training before this date that is covered by the player injury scheme.

“I hope the GAA, LFGA, and Camogie Association don't bury their heads in the sand on this one. At the moment, some people are breaking the rules, others are not. It is an unfair playing field."

Elsewhere, the Camogie Association last night confirmed this year’s national league has been declared null and void. There will be no automatic relegation or promotion from the All-Ireland senior, intermediate, and junior championship. The two groups initially drawn up for the senior championship have been scrapped and the 11 participating counties will be spread across a greater number of groups.

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