The Gaelic Players Association (GPA) are proposing that the GAA contract the combined inter-county season and pre-season by up to 17 weeks.
The GPA national executive have today put to their members a recommendation to conclude the inter-county season at the end of July, commencing it at the start of February when it is envisaged every team would begin pre-season at the same time.
Instead of running to 40 weeks, the season and pre-season would comprise a total of 23 weeks running through the current 'exclusive' club month of April.
After pre-season for some counties began last November prior to the start of the Allianz Leagues in late January, it had been planned for the current inter-county season to finish later this month with the All-Ireland SFC final. However, the coronavirus pandemic forced the GAA to dramatically truncate the club and county seasons, from club training returning in small numbers in June to the All-Ireland SFC final on December 19.
The national fixtures review group, on which the GPA have a representative, have two proposals on the table to make available three extra club-only weeks bringing the total to 15. However, the GPA schedule, which they intend putting forward to the group on August 19 pending consultation with squads, would provide considerably more irrespective of April.
In correspondence with members today, GPA chief executive Paul Flynn writes: “Since the middle of 2019, we had been working on a new strategic plan for our association which has as its core principle Sustainable Amateurism. Sustainable Amateurism is designed to allow you achieve better balance in your life both off and on the pitch.
“It aims to remove excessive demands and give you a more enjoyable playing experience that doesn’t impact negatively on your professional and personal life.
“It is based on information and data supplied by you the players in the two ESRI reports (2018 and 2019), the GPA Student Report (2019), and our annual grant survey data (2020).
“One of the major pieces of feedback that you have given is that the current situation where the inter-county season is almost year-round is not sustainable. It is seen as the ‘root cause’ of many of the issues that impact you.
“The usual inter-county season runs for up to 40 weeks. However, the current season has been reformatted to fit club and county into 26 weeks. It is our firmly held view that this shows we should be capable of completing the inter-county season in the much-reduced timeframe.
“This would help to alleviate the unsustainable demands on you, allowing you to strike a better balance across your physical, personal, and professional lives and also between club and county commitments.”
Flynn highlights what he considers several advantages of the proposal such as closed season periods and definitive windows for club from August onwards and third-level Gaelic Games activity.
He also suggests it’s an opportunity to structure a new League/Championship All-Ireland competition and that whatever formats are put forward are done so with the timeframe in mind, “with a blank canvas approach being taken”.