GAA tension with GPA fizzes up again

RELATIONS between the GAA and GPA continue to worsen following a new sponsorship drinks deal.

Lucozade Sport, the official sports drink to 25 county teams, yesterday signed five county players to a new campaign which will be in direct competition with the GPA tie into Club Energise.

Earlier this year the GAA banned the latter brand from pitch-side advertising leading to increased tensions with the players’ body.

Waterford’s Paul Flynn, Tipperary duo Brendan Cummins and Eoin Kelly along with Armagh’s Oisín McConville and Des Dolan of Westmeath will front the new television advertising scheme which has Croke Park backing.

This is the latest clash between the organisations. Both launched their own telecom deals within a month of each other earlier this year. And the GPA has been annoyed over the creation by Croke Park of a GAA sticker album and a Gaelic football video game without proper consultation with players.

“We have always advocated that the co-operative model was the way forward and we’ve always wanted to make plans in conjunction with the GAA in these matters,” GPA chief executive Dessie Farrell said yesterday.

“But as we’ve seen with the debacle with the sticker album, some people seem unwilling to do that. That would have been an ideal project to work on together. There has been this undercurrent of hostility towards the GPA from certain sections of the GAA from day one and that manifests itself in different ways. The decision that Club Energise was an unsuitable brand and banning it from stadia was simply nonsensical.

“We have brought in 30-player scholarships from that revenue as well as establishing a benevolent fund.”

GAA president Seán Kelly has already accepted that this “muddying of the waters” would have to be addressed.

Speaking at the launch of the GAA’s Gaelic Telecom deal last May, he said: “demarcation lines would have to be laid down and I understand that (the GPA) have to have a revenue stream and that would probably be guaranteed as well. There are a lot of issues to be talked about.”

The problem for the GPA is that the GAA will not contemplate entering any commercial deals with them until the players’ body is officially recognised. For that to happen the two need to meet formally and get down to brass-tacks, but official talks would appear to be as far away as ever.

“There’s been no update at all, not one iota,” said Farrell. “The GAA have indicated that they would be available for a meeting once the holiday season is over but that’s all we’ve heard.

“Seán Kelly seems happy to meet informally and we’ve talked over the phone on a few occasions but as for formal meetings, there have been none. We haven’t had a formal meeting with the GAA since Seán McCague was in office.” Meanwhile, Lucozade are set to recognise the heroic achievements of the GAA’s “breakthrough” counties in football and hurling over the past 10 years at an imaginative new awards ceremony in Croke Park on Monday. The ceremony will acknowledge the recent success of the Westmeath and Fermanagh football teams without forgetting other less recent historic advances such as Clare’s momentous 1995 All-Ireland title - their first since 1914.

The “Breakthrough Awards” have been organised by Lucozade Sport and mark 10 years of the company’s sponsorship and support of Gaelic games.

The winning counties will be presented with their awards by Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh and Des Cahill.

Jocelyn Emerson, head of nutritionals marketing with GlaxoSmithKline, said: “Lucozade Sport remain committed to investing considerable resources into Gaelic games at all levels.

“We are delighted to acknowledge the achievements of counties who have broken the threshold and injected energy and excitement into the championship over the past 10 years.”

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