The Club Players Association (CPA) have called on the GAA to go ahead with Special Congress later this year so that urgent action can be taken to change to fixtures calendar and help end the “poisonous” club versus county atmosphere.
Prior to the pandemic, a Special Congress to vote on the structure of the All-Ireland senior football championship as well as other proposals by the national fixtures review group had been scheduled for September.
Speaking to thein May, GAA director general Tom Ryan said the third and final year of the Super 8 experiment and the newly-formed second tier Tailteann Cup would be postponed until next year, which suggests Special Congress would also be put back.
Three proposals regarding the football calendar were to be put to delegates: Flipping the league and championship formats, redrawing the provinces into four conferences of eight teams or retaining the status quo. The first two options, which were conditionally supported by the CPA, would increase the number of club-only weekends from 12 to 15.
The CPA want the gathering to be staged in 2020 even it is remotely “so that any agreed change may be implemented in time for 2021”.
They are also calling for a national referendum of clubs to take place on a national games programme with designated periods for club inter-county and third level.
In a press release, the CPA stated they had communicated with Ryan and GAA president John Horan citing recommendations from their own reports over the years that they claim have not been endorsed. “To date Croke Park has not replied,” reads the statement. “We hope it is because they are taking time to review this material rather than ignore it.
“More than ever we need strong leadership, direction and action. The Association was able to take swift and decisive action on fixtures as we faced the coronavirus threat. When coronavirus ceases to be a threat, the fixtures problem of our own creation will still be with us and will not have gone away.
“The GAA has proven it can take decisive action, the question is now does it want to because faced with drop out, disillusionment, and dissent, we need to stop this problem in its tracks, eliminate the problems at source and flatten the fixtures curve.
“The current tug of war between club and county in the abridged season of 2020 only proves that the governance of rules around designated periods is not working and the lack of clarity and enforcement of the existing rules is bringing embarrassment to the Association.”
It continued: “The GAA is currently in the middle of a very dangerous atmosphere which needs to be addressed immediately and certainly in advance of 2021. If a satisfactory set of fixtures cannot be agreed then this totally unnecessary and poisonous atmosphere will further escalate and damage our Association even further.”
The CPA highlight four areas of crisis for the GAA: Fixtures, finances, lack of central governance, and the GAA’s loss of sense of identity as a community-based organisation with the club at its core.
Seeking a response from Croke Park in the next two weeks, the statement concluded: “The very future of the GAA which we all love is at stake. We are pleading with the Association’s leadership at national level to take whatever remedial steps are necessary and with the utmost of urgency.
“As elected leaders and/or paid executives, our leaders have been given the responsibility to lead. Leadership in this instance means taking immediate and urgent steps that will 'fix the fixtures', give the Association back to its grassroots members, and restore the GAA to being a community-based Gaelic Games and culture organisation with the club at its core.”