Approximately €9 million was reaped from the three All-Ireland hurling final replays from 2012 to ’14 and roughly another €3m of additional gate receipts following All-Ireland football semi-final replays in the last two seasons.
However, from 2017, the association’s hierarchy are proposing the facility of extra-time apply to all games including All-Ireland finals. Replays would only be scheduled in the event of teams finishing level after two additional periods of 10 minutes. They believe it is a fundamental part of introducing a calendar-year fixtures schedule, which would see the All-Ireland Club finals played in December instead of the following February and March.
Amending the recommendation which they postponed earlier this year, the All-Ireland hurling decider would take place two weeks earlier as opposed to the original idea of one. Similarly, the football final would be brought forward by a fortnight, replacing the hurling final’s current date on the first Sunday of September.
Extrapolating recommendations from eight reports from 2004 to last year, GAA director general Páraic Duffy, president Aogán Ó Fearghail and director of games administration and player welfare Feargal McGill told the media in Croke Park yesterday the proposals have been revisited as they sense an appetite for change.
Duffy spoke of his exasperation reading in the press of complaints about player welfare and fixtures and nothing being done about it. Although described as a discussion paper, it’s obvious Duffy wants counties to endorse the proposals.
He wrote: “I would much prefer we implement the necessary changes proposed here on the grounds of player welfare and fairness, but, it this does not convince some of us, then self- interest might: we should be fully aware the GAA will continue to lose club players who are not offered a regular, planned and coherent set of competitive matches.
“We must, therefore, take decisive action, but not in a spirit of apprehension: in recent decades the GAA has proved itself capable of taking tough decisions and making historic changes for the good of the Association.”
In the event counties are against the proposals, he has challenged them to come up with alternatives. “Given the clear evidence of the existence of the player-welfare and fixtures-scheduling problems, the onus is on those who oppose the proposed changes – changes identified as necessary in report after report – welfare, strengthening clubs and giving our club players a fair deal, and to ring forward their own proposals that are realistic and feasible. Ducking the difficult choices these issues pose for the Association simply by saying ‘no’ to these proposals is neither a responsible nor a credible stance.”
Provinces have previously put the kibosh on the eradication of replays and the Munster Council will be cognisant of how lucrative this year’s Kerry-Cork replay was in Killarney. All six Munster counties as well as other dual counties have previously questioned the feasibility of the calendar year. However, it is hoped were each of the All-Ireland championships tightened up by two weeks and the Division 1 football semi-finals abolished that the GAA could free up three to four weeks for more club activity.
Unlike the U21 football championship, Duffy has left the hurling equivalent untouched as it only involves 11 teams and counties can still be involved in it after their senior sides have exited their championship. However, they are calling for it to finish prior to the All-Ireland senior hurling final instead of the current situation where the U21 decider takes place six days later.
Six of the 11 proposals would have to be passed by Congress next year to come into operation: the re-grading of minor level, discontinuing the U21 football championship, the availability of inter-county players not on matchday panels to their clubs, bringing forward the All-Ireland senior finals by two weeks, adding the facility of extra-time at the end of all drawn games and the abolishment of the All-Ireland junior football and intermediate hurling championships. The other five would have to be endorsed by Central Council. It was confirmed by McGill all the 18 proposals to restructure the football championship are compatible with what was unveiled yesterday.