ALTHOUGH the public may zero in on the grants issue, the Gaelic Players Association (GPA) have a wider agenda. Spokesman Sean Potts instances their efforts to get the GAA involved in education and employment scheme for players.
And with good reason.
“The number of inter-county players unemployed more or less tallies with the current national figure,” says Potts. “But we’re mindful that the real impact mightn’t be seen until next year.
“At this stage fellas will probably hang on for the championship before they head off abroad to try to find work.
“What we’re trying to establish is whether they plan to stay away for a while or whether they’ll be coming back — do they plan on staying away for a few years? If so, that could have an impact on the games.
“Obviously that can’t really be assessed at this stage, but we circulated a very extensive survey of our members on Thursday and we’ll probably have a better idea in a few weeks of the state of play going forward.”
With that in mind, Potts and his colleagues are advocating a change of mind in the higher echelons of the GAA.
“On a more serious note, our view would be that the GAA needs to consider where it stands regarding welfare – such as considering whether it expands what it considers to be player welfare to include matters such as education and employment.
“Some might say that that’s not their responsibility, but we’d be arguing the case that because of the relationship between the intercounty player and the commercial side of the GAA, that it’s fair.
“And the GAA should maybe consider expanding the idea of player welfare to include those playing at the top level, at intercounty level.
“We’d see this as a vision of the future — to reinvest some of the commercial funds that are generated by the intercounty game into education, in particular, in the short term.”
Potts cites the reality of intercounty commitment as the reason behind the GPA’s stance.
“If lads are committing to intercounty careers they may be neglecting some other aspects of their lives, such as their careers.
“We’d be keen to resolve that and to look at education in particular to do so, but those things all cost money, that’s the nub of it.
“That’s why we’d be looking to the GAA to consider investing in this type of thing. It’ll take time to communicate that properly and to understand where we’re at.”
Potts added: “It’s something we were exploring for a couple of years, but obviously it got absolutely catapulted to the top of the agenda with the downturn.
“We’d been looking at it but it wouldn’t have been top of the priorities because up to recently players could move from one casual job to another if they wanted and worry about their long-term working careers towards the end of their playing careers.
“Obviously that landscape has changed dramatically. That’s where we’re at with regards our negotiations with the GAA but we’re also trying to develop a proper strategy with talks with key individuals in the areas of education, employment, the universities and so on.”
It’s a slow process, but Potts sees it as having its place within the GAA’s portfolio of projects.
“We’re trying to put together a detailed package but our aspirations are obviously going to be shaped by funding. But we feel it’s a logical progression for the GAA — within the amateur framework.
“It’s not duplicitous in any way — all it’s doing is improving the lives of the fellas who play intercounty.
“Wonderful as it is to play, you also need a job — once you get to 26 or 27 years of age a job is particularly important.
“That’s the case we’re trying to make — revenue is being generated, and while we accept that, that money is distributed very well by the organisation, we would still argue the case fairly and reasonably for a small amount of that money to be put into developing these kinds of services.”
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