GAELIC Players Association chief executive Dessie Farrell remains upbeat about the prospects of formal recognition by the GAA despite criticism from outgoing President Nickey Brennan and the revelation that negotiations collapsed because the players’ body had requested “a specific percentage” of the Association’s income to fund their activities.
According to Brennan, that was a scenario they were not prepared to contemplate.
“We were prepared to offer funding towards specific projects and initiatives, but allocating a percentage of our income would ultimately result in reduced funding being made available for GAA projects plus a significant lessening of financial support to units at all levels. This would not have been acceptable under any circumstances.”
However, interviewed later Farrell said that they hadn’t got around to discussing the actual percentage.
“There are a number of different ways to skin a cat. The mechanism was an issue, the level of funding is an issue and there were other issues as well as well around core responsibilities and who operates the player welfare function. I’m confident that none of the issues are insurmountable.
“Typically what happens in every other players’ association is that they are funded by the governing body.
“We are self-funded but we are very much at the whim of sponsors and in this current climate that’s perhaps unsustainable. So we need to make sure there is a viable source of funding for the future prosperity of the GPA.”
Farrell indicated that other player associations around the world received between 5% and 15% of the governing body’s income. Accepting this was a large figure (5% of the GAA’s income last year would amount to € 3.2m), he stated: “We are not saying it was our (suggested) cut. Negotiations didn’t even get to that stage.”
For his part, Nickey Brennan told delegates that his one regret on leaving office was that GPA recognition had not been finalised. A formal relationship with players was far more appropriate inside the GAA than having a maverick uncontrollable group outside, operating to an agenda at variance with their policies and ideals, he said.
Nevertheless, he voiced criticism of the GPA on several fronts, saying for instance that the GAA’s spend on player-related activities of more than €30m had never been “adequately acknowledged or appreciated” at any stage during their discussions.
More pointedly, he said he resented the description of people within the Association who had voiced opposition to the government grants for inter-county players as “malcontents”.
Farrell responded that while the phraseology could have been better, he stood over the sentiment.
“It was a hugely important issue for players at the time and it was very disappointing to see the opposition to it coming from the same sectors that we had opposition before to the players and the players’ movement,” he said.
Likewise, Farrell wasn’t prepared to accept the version of events that after the GAA submitted a draft framework document the end of February, they received no response or communication from the players’ body.
“I wouldn’t agree with all that Nickey has said. Obviously we would have our own slant on some of the issues raised. That’s understandable, everybody would have their own perception and subjective views as to what went on within the process,” he said.
“The funding mechanism was one issue but there were others. It wasn’t solely that particular one. You have to look at it in the context of the progress that was made and there was definitely an awful lot of progress made. Obviously we didn’t want to rush into anything with the deadline of Congress coming up. We felt it was perhaps best not to try and push ahead unless all the issues were properly addressed and so we look forward to Christy Cooney’s comments and working with him.”
Elsewhere in his address, Brennan expressed concern over the suspension of the Government’s Sports Capital Funding Programme, saying it would place a lot of clubs and county boards under severe financial strain. “I accept that there are enormous demands on every cent of exchequer finance at this time, but complete abandonment of the funding — even for a few years — will cause severe difficulties for many of our units who are in the throes of completing projects.
“When the scheme is reactivated, I believe the funding should also cover the purchase of land to provide playing facilities as only the funding of infrastructure is covered at present.”
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