GPA want GAA to delay Tier 2 Football Championship debate

GPA want GAA to delay Tier 2 Football Championship debate
Paul Flynn: Clarified that the Tier 2 structure which the Central Council has backed isn’t the choice of the majority of players. Picture: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

Players chief Paul Flynn has called on the GAA to ‘shelve’ next month’s vote on a new Tier 2 football Championship structure until everyone has had their say on the proposed change.

Speaking in advance of today’s AGM of the Gaelic Players Association, chief executive Flynn admitted that there is ‘an appetite for a Tier 2 structure. Not this one’.

His comments follow Monday’s confirmation by the GAA that a proposal to introduce a new Tier 2 format will be forwarded to Special Congress on October 19 for voting.

The proposal, backed by the GAA’s powerful Central Council, recommends that Division 3 and 4 counties that don’t reach their provincial final compete in an alternative championship, reducing the All-Ireland qualifiers from four rounds to two.

The Club Players Association has already hit out at the decision to pursue change before the GAA’s Fixtures Calendar Review task force has released its own recommendations, due in November, and the GPA concurred.

“We’re not asking them to put it off fully but just shelve it until the fixture task force finish off their deliberations and deliver their recommendations, which is going to be in November,” said Flynn.

“It could have been a case of just waiting a couple of months and just going to normal Congress, rather than having the Special Congress.

“I’m very conscious that I don’t want to be perceived to be negative towards everything the GAA do. The GAA do a lot of good stuff. We’re supportive of that. Tier 2 can be something that’s really positive. All we’re trying to do is that you get the right people deciding it, defining it and delivering it. And then we’ll get a good outcome.”

The Fixtures Calendar Review task force was set up in June at the behest of GAA President John Horan to look at club and county schedules in their entirety.

Flynn claimed it makes no sense to push through a new format for the football Championship before that committee has released its findings.

“It’s our view that any Tier 2 structure just on its own will be hard to support,” said the former Dublin footballer.

“But if it’s part of an overall change, whereby there might be an overall structure change to the Championship, it’s going to be better received by the players.”

Flynn clarified that the Tier 2 structure which the Central Council has backed isn’t the choice of the majority of players.

“I’ll clarify that, there’s an appetite for a Tier 2 structure. Not this one,” he said.

It was put to Flynn at yesterday’s pre-AGM press briefing that GAA President Horan may be keen to push through a revised football championship to add to his legacy.

“I think the bigger legacy for anybody in the GAA would be to have an overall structure review of the overall year, club and county,” responded Flynn. “That’s something that everybody would be remembered for.”

The GPA is represented on the Eddie O’Sullivan-chaired Fixtures Calendar Review task force and Flynn said they’re poised to reveal an extensive list of findings and recommendations in November.

“Part of it is structural reform, part of it is having longer-term views, medium-term views and short-term views of what it (the GAA calendar) could look like,” said Flynn. “It will benefit players, club and county, college, schools, the whole lot. It’s a very difficult area, we all know that. If it was easy, it would be fixed by now.

“Equally, that group are giving a good stab at putting some really strong recommendations together, that I feel we should be investing in, that we feel, the GPA, not just me, feel that we should be investing in that group rather than bringing in a Tier 2 structure that the players do not support.”

Asked what the GPA’s next move will be, Flynn said that will be decided shortly.

“It’s going to be on the agenda at our AGM, particularly with our football squads,” he said. “This is one of the ones where you have a split in your membership. There’s one crew that are very interested in it...and look, this isn’t just about the people who are affected by a Tier 2, the Division 3 and Division 4 squads.

“This completely revamps the qualifier system as well, the proposal that’s going forward to Special Congress. So I think it’s important that all players are informed about it and invested in it. As with everything we do, we’ll heed the players about what our next steps are.”

Flynn rejected the suggestion that the GPA’s stance represents an 11th hour intervention and that they should have acted sooner.

“We’ve been on about this for months with them,” he said. “We’ve had engagements with the GAA. We’ve had players in meeting with the GAA. We’ve had Feargal McGill on calls with key stakeholders from the 16 counties. It’s been ongoing.”

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