GPA taking long-term approach to GAA negotiations

The GPA is also proposing the use of a confidential disclosure platform to monitor whether inter-county squads are adhering to designated off-seasons
GPA taking long-term approach to GAA negotiations

The GPA will also by hit by the GAA's loss of revenue due to the coronavirus shutdown. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane

The GPA will be taking a long-term approach to negotiations over a new deal with the GAA, despite the ongoing pandemic and economic turbulence still to come.

The players' body derives 39% of its core funding via a 15% take of the association's Central Council revenues and negotiations on a new deal failed to finish late last year with the result that the current agreement has been rolled forward to include 2020.

The loss of four months from the calendar and restrictions on spectators that are expected to continue for some time will savage the GAA's income for this calendar year and, as a consequence the GPA's who also receive €3m annually from the government for player grants.

Talks are continuing between the parties.

“Firstly, I’d say that no different to any other unit within the GAA we’re going to experience a contraction based off the current situation,” said GPA CEO Paul Flynn. “Our revenues are linked with the GAA’s revenues so obviously if their revenue goes down our revenue potentially goes down too.

“The second thing I’d say is that in regards to the negotiations, it’s going to be a long-term deal, a long-term relationship. It’s a partnership model and this, what we’re experiencing right now, no different to any organisation or any sports organisation, is hopefully going to be a short-term impact.

“The GAA is around for many years, it’s going to be around for many years more and, equally, the players. Yes, we will look at it from a short-term perspective with the GAA but with regards to a negotiated agreement we’ll be looking at it from a long-term perspective also.” 

Meanwhile, the GPA's national executive committee is proposing the use of a confidential disclosure platform that would monitor whether inter-county squads are adhering to designated off-seasons.

An ESRI report found that 40% of inter-county players admitted to having no off-season while a GPA survey last year found that 67% would be in favour of stronger player adherence to a ban on any training with county teams before December 1 - in a normal year.

This proposal would provide a system where players could report any breaches safe in the knowledge that their identity is protected. The idea stemmed from a sitdown between GPA CEO Paul Flynn and Don Davis of the NFL's player body.

Davis detailed a similar platform that tracks the volume of physical contact NFL players engage in during practise. Flynn liked the model and felt it could be tweaked to work for GAA players who are “crying out for” a proper off-season.

“It’s one of the key strategic initiatives from my perspective is to deliver on an off-season for intercounty players,” said the former Dublin player.

“It goes back to the idea of sustainable amateurism and back to the foundation of what we should aim to achieve in the GPA, to bring that balance in the players’ personal professional and physical life. And this is a core element of it. We’ll have to roll it out and monitor the usage of it.” 

The GPA is also mulling over the wider concept of 'optimal contact hours' as a means of limiting the amount of time inter-county players are having to invest in their playing careers which, according to the ESRI, averages out at 31 hours per week.

“In all my years playing under Jim Gavin, I believe we trained less than every other county in the country,” said Flynn. 

“That was always my belief when I spoke to other players and learned about what they were doing. I always felt we were doing less and it was because we were training smart.” 

For such an idea to work it would take a collaboration between the GPA, GAA, county boards, and managers. As we have seen with the rancorous debate over club and county access to players this next few months, that would likely be far from straightforward.

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