GAA players ‘want to turn semi-pro’

OVER 70% of respondents to a Gaelic Players Association survey favour a move from amateurism to semi-professionalism. The survey was conducted over the last number of weeks by UCD’s Centre for Sports Studies.

Questionnaires were sent to 1779 players with 680 responding.

“It’s been fair to say that, while the GPA hasn’t advocated a pay-for-play policy, we definitely have to take stock of these findings now and digest them ourselves,” GPA chief executive Dessie Farrell said yesterday.

“What’s apparent here is that there has been a change of attitude among players over the past number of years - the game has changed enormously in the last number of years and we all recognise that.

“The flip-side of that is that expectations of players have changed. It’s important that the GAA respect that as well and perhaps we can now sit down and engage with them in a meaningful way.”

The GAA is certain to defend its amateur status. County boards are already struggling with the financial demands of running inter-county teams and paying players from the GAA’s revenue streams would divert funds from grassroots levels.

However, two-thirds of players believe that semi-professionalism could easily be sustained at senior inter-county level, contrary to the findings of the GAA’s 2002 Strategic Review.

“Maybe we can try and come to some arrangement whereby the burden on players can be alleviated,” said Farrell. “The amateur status and amateurism - will that be eroded in any way? I’m not sure, but I’m sure there’s more than one way to skin a cat.

“It puts a greater focus and emphasis now on issues like sports grants for inter-county players, commercial opportunities, endorsements, player pools and I think there’s imaginative ways where we can address this particular challenge.If it is not addressed, there might be problems down the line. Our greatest fear in the GPA is that you would have an element of chicanery involved in the game, this shamateurism that has bedevilled other sports and other codes. There would be an argument that says this has already happened in Gaelic games. It’s important in this day and age for the prosperity of our games that everything is above board and everything is transparent.”

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