Flynn: GPA is working to tackle online abuse of GAA players

Paul Flynn has admitted that some county players felt they had to avoid work the day after major games this year following vicious online abuse.

Flynn: GPA is working to tackle online abuse of GAA players

Paul Flynn has admitted that some county players felt they had to avoid work the day after major games this year following vicious online abuse.

The head of the Gaelic Players Association raised the issue to alert inter-county players to the ongoing dangers posed by trolls.

Flynn reckons abuse on social media platforms has reached epidemic proportions generally in society, and said top players are naturally ‘in the public eye’ and targeted for abuse.

Part of the GPA’s education drive has included hiring an expert to ‘audit’ the social media accounts of players and asking them days later if they were happy with what they’d posted.

But the main problem for players isn’t what they’re saying as much as what’s being said to them.

“One of the journalists last year commented that we were educating players how to sell themselves on social media and build their brand — it was actually very much about minding themselves on social media,” said Flynn.

We had players this year who couldn’t go to work the next day because of the abuse they got on a Sunday on social media. They were teachers or they were professionals facing kids and so forth.

“It’s very difficult at the moment, online abuse is an epidemic across society and we’re just a microcosm of society.

“We’re in the public eye so we get more of it than others. It’s also about them managing their own accounts, so that for job opportunities they are in the public eye and what they’re putting out there it’s important it’s managed carefully.”

Flynn revealed that the GPA used sports communication expert Kieran File, who has worked extensively with rugby players, to review players’ online activity.

“He does some interesting stuff like last year he audited (players),” said Flynn.

“We gave him the names of all the people who were there (at an event) and he audited all their accounts. He analysed it and then on the day he shared some of the things that were said and he asked, ‘Would you qualify this as an okay thing to say? Would you say this in a class?’, or whatever way he put it.”

Flynn is currently in talks with the GAA regarding a fresh partnership deal. Their existing three-year agreement worth €6.2m per year to the GPA was struck in mid-2016 and concludes at the end of October.

That deal secured an increase in mileage expenses for county players, a nutrition expense, a special fund for ex-players and a greater GPA input into overall decision making.

The players group also secured a cut of commercial income for the first time.

“It’s not all about funding — that’s important to note,” said Flynn.

It’s about making sure the players are supported and that they can have a life outside, off the pitch.

The separate Government grants scheme is also up for discussion, with €6.9m in funding secured in late 2016 for a three-year period.

Asked if general tax breaks are something the GPA might pursue, Flynn said it’s a possibility. “It’s something that when I came into this role I was keen to explore, (I’m) still exploring it, it’s a very complex space,” he said.

“But I think the most important thing in the short term is to renew our Government grants scheme that we currently have in place.”

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