GPA exploring possibilities but fear quarantine 'unrealistic'

GPA CEO Paul Flynn accepts the “genuine possibility” there will be no further GAA activity this year.
GPA exploring possibilities but fear quarantine 'unrealistic'
GPA CEO Paul Flynn

Gaelic Players Association CEO Paul Flynn has said extensive testing of players or mass quarantining of teams is an "unrealistic" approach in securing a return to GAA activity.

In a letter to members this afternoon, Flynn said no player will be asked or expected to step back inside the whitewash until it is 100% safe to do so.

The GPA, he made known, is currently seeking clarity from Croke Park regarding return-to-play protocols and transparency around the role of players in any decision-making process.

"Our medical advisor, Dr Jim O'Donovan, and I have been taking advice from global sports leaders through the World Players Association throughout the Covid-19 crisis," Flynn wrote.

"Monday’s call, led by the NFLPA’s Medical Director Thom Mayer and Dr Ross D. Zafonte, Chairman of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Harvard Medical School, gave great insights into the NFL’s contingency plans. The NFLPA [NFL Players Association] highlighted that: player health and safety are non-negotiable; and they would go anywhere science would take them, but nowhere it doesn’t.

"They went on to highlight how they are exploring a biodome (hubs) or mass quarantine options with extensive testing protocols. This idea may be unrealistic to the GAA, and there is a concern that the players would be put at higher risk without the additional protection of quarantine and continuous testing. However, the key message is that they are exploring all options, all eventualities, and they stress that evidence-based ideas will lead them.

“The GPA feels it is essential that we too continue to explore all opportunities. Although the many differences between professional sports and amateur sports make it more challenging for the GAA to overcome, this information gathering will assist us in learning more about the virus and exploring all options to a safe return to play. All of this will align with the respective public health advice.”

He added: “I can assure you that we will not countenance a situation arising where players are asked to put themselves or their families and loved ones at undue risk. Your health and safety are non-negotiable.”

Flynn accepted the “genuine possibility” there will be no further GAA activity this year. That said, the six-time All-Ireland winner wants further clarity on the GAA's contingency plans for the inter-county season.

“We accept the GAA can’t deliver certainty around fixtures at this time. It is a fluid and ever-changing situation. However, what we would like to see is some further clarity around the GAA’s contingency plans for the inter-county and club season.

“The close contact nature of the playing and training environment which surrounds our games presents a heightened risk to the welfare of players and a considerable challenge to return to action while adhering to social distancing and public health guidelines.

"It is important the GAA engage external expert medical advice to formulate an evidence-informed decision on a safe return to play. We will continue to work with the GAA on this.

“It is our view that this current period should be used as downtime, with a break from inter-county commitments. Feedback from squads indicates a lot of management teams are taking this approach, and we welcome this move.”

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