Sean Fogarty: ‘Axe provincial championships and reduce power of councils’

Former Munster Council chairman Sean Fogarty has called for the abolition of the provincial football championships and a significant reduction in the power wielded by provincial councils.

Fogarty describes the present structure of the All-Ireland SFC as a “castle built on sand” and says “drastic change” is required.

The Tipperary native, while finding favour with certain elements of the GPA proposal unveiled last week, does not believe the players’ blueprint for reform goes far enough given it advocates for the retention of the provincial championships.

Fogarty admitted it was “penance” having to attend Munster football quarter- and semi-final games during his tenure as chairman. He can understand the desire of provincial top-brass to retain the status quo, but firmly believes they hold too much power and urged Central Council to remove their authority with regard to competition structures and planning.

“I would have been a huge advocate of the provincial championships when I was chairman, but now I am looking at it from the viewpoint of a neutral and my belief is that provincial championships, bar Ulster, have had their day,” he said.

“With the running of our championships, the buck should stop with Central Council. It doesn’t. The four provincial councils are the all-powerful bodies. Central Council have to work with what they get and what comes out of provincial councils. That is the tail wagging the dog.

“Provincial councils have too much power. We have the same here in Tipperary with the four divisional boards. They have too much power as to how competitions should be run. The Tipperary County Board should be the over-riding body and the rest should comply. I believe it is the very same at national level. The provincial councils cannot continue to have the power they have at present.”

He added: “We won’t get change, I think, until Central Council take over all responsibility for the running of all our championships. We won’t get change while we still have the same power vested in the provincial councils. This is a turnaround by me. I have a different perspective as a neutral. You would be looking at it with tinted glasses when you would be inside in the tent.”

Present Munster Council chief executive Simon Moroney, responding to Fogarty’s assertions, says the strength of the provincial council is often exaggerated. “I accept Sean’s point. It is the counties, and the clubs within the counties, that determine voting strength at Congress. Congress is the litmus test for these proposals for change.

“A two-thirds majority is often required. Provincial councils would have one vote at Congress and that is through the chairperson’s role as a member of management.

“The counties decide the fate of every motion that goes to Congress. The counties may feel a loyalty to their province, but there is no compulsion on them to go with a provincial take on these things.”

Fogarty cites the redundant Leinster and Connacht championships as cause enough for structure change.

“Some of the games we had this year, people are going to get tired going to them. It will get to a stage where they are not going to go. They can say what they like about gate receipts going up. Gate receipts are going up because supporters are being loyal to their county, not the quality of fare they are experiencing at the venue.

“It is just engrained loyalty that comes with the Irish psyche, whether it is to our club or county. But if you look at it realistically in terms of the value for money they are getting for games we have had, we have had so many poor games. It is decidedly getting worse because the top half can finance their progress, the small counties can not.

“I attended so many first-round Munster championship games, quarter-finals and semi-finals as Munster chairman. They were a pain, a waste of a Sunday. It was a penance to have to go to some of those games. I was at some quarter-finals and semi-finals and there was ludicrous scorelines which leaves you wondering why these teams should be in the same competition.”

He was surprised the GPA proposal did not include a two-tier championship structure. “I wouldn’t say the GPA proposal is fait accompli. It is a good document for discussion. We cannot have this 32-county competition that we have at present and hope for this giant-killing act. The Tommy Murphy Cup was bad, but we do require a B championship.”


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