They were unsuccessful in doing so two years ago. While there was tentative support given to a Champions League-style format, there was still strong backing for the provincial structures.
Back then, the GPA membership had been asked by their executive to debate four different proposals, all of which recommended doing away with the provincial competitions. Their opinions were forwarded to the Football Review Committee although Eugene McGee’s committee were never going to back a system that ignored Munster, Leinster, Connacht and Ulster.
This first draft proposal the GPA executive have now made to inter-county footballers is a compromise of sorts. The provincial competitions will remain but will be played off in four or five weeks and will offer no reward to the winners beyond the glory of claiming their respective provincial title. That’s a fanciful idea, particularly when the GPA advocates incentivising the National Football League instead.
Linking the secondary competition with the All-Ireland series is a worthy thought but what must remain is the nugget of winning a provincial championship.
Condensing these into a month trivialises the competitions. Yes, as much as the inequalities of the football summer are sourced in the varying numbers never mind quality from province to province; they remain pillars. So Ulster is tougher than Munster - doesn’t that means the Ulster medal means more?
Because of the Champions League-style All-Ireland series, each county post-league will play at least three games. If a county progresses to an All-Ireland final they will play seven games. There is equity there but on top of their provincial campaign some county’s clubs will have to surrender as many as eight playing weekends. Clubs certainly won’t like the sound of the 91 championship matches the GPA want compared to the current 64.
As well as the possibility of a Division 1 team facing a Division 4 team in the provinces, these match-ups are guaranteed to face one another in the All-Ireland series. The likelihood for more lopsided games is greater than is currently the case. There is also nothing to address the dire need for a second-tier championship.
What’s to like about the GPA blueprint are the removal of league finals. There may be more dead rubbers as a result but at least the “purest” victors in each division will be identified and accordingly rewarded. Getting rid of the pre-season competitions in January also looks a decent call. For several counties who are only permitted to return in late November and December, they eat into necessary pre-season preparations.
How the GPA’s football season would work
Four division structure retained but pre-season competitions removed;
Competition started in early February and finished in late March;
League finals disbanded;
Final league positions determine seeding in All-Ireland championship.
Provincial championships run off as separate competitions to the All-Ireland series;
Competitions started early April and finished early May.
Eight groups of four teams (open draw), seeded from final league positions (ie one team from each division);
Round robin series, each team plays three games;
Bottom-ranked (Division 4) teams have home advantage against top teams;
Eight groups split into two pools which play on alternate weekends;
Extra-time in all round robin games and “golden score” thereafter;
Top three teams in each group qualify for last 24 with group winners going into last 16. Second and third placed teams face off to reach last 16 where they face the group winners.