Tom O’Sullivan says doubling mileage rate would end pro debate

The professionalism debate in the GAA could be ended once and for all by a doubling of players’ mileage rate, according to former Kerry defender Tom O’Sullivan.

As part of an in-depth interview in tomorrow’s Irish Examiner 20-page All-Ireland final supplement, the five-time All-Ireland winner says a hike from 50 cent to €1 per mile would satisfy inter-county footballers and hurlers.

“It’s hard to fathom the fact that players are only getting 50 cent a mile in this day and age where we’ve gone through boom and recession and it still hasn’t changed. If they don’t want to give players cash or cheques all they need to do is up the mileage to at least a euro so players would make a little out of it because at the moment they’re losing.

“At the moment, 50 cent a mile isn’t going to cover servicing your car and paying diesel or petrol because everything else has gone up in price except players’ expenses. The GAA could look after players better.

“They are creating an unbelievable spectacle. If you look at the tweets from the UK about the hurling final, they’re amazed at the speed of the game. It was the same for Dublin-Mayo. Come Monday morning, these players have to go back to work. They are among the few on the match-day providing a service that are not being paid.”

The mileage rate was increased from 38 cent to 45 cent in 2002 before it rose to 50 cent at the start of 2004 following a recommendation by the players committee although it had been initially mooted it would jump to 60 cent.

O’Sullivan is aware the mileage rate would favour those players who live further away from training venues but it may then be decided that the accumulated mileage expenses be pooled and distributed evenly among the squad.

He believes the power to change things lies with the household names. “A lot of the top players are looked after better by the GAA because they have more influence in the media. They’re getting contracts too for commercial work and TV ads because they are influential. If they were to come out in the media and say they wanted pay-for-play there would be pressure on the GAA to change something like the expenses.

“If you don’t want to be seen to give pay-for-play all they need to do is give an extra 50 cent a mile. They could have blood flowing into their eyes from a cut but wrap a towel around their head and they’ll play away.” O’Sullivan supports Croke Park’s plans to shorten the All-Ireland championship schedule.

“The year is too long. If you were a Dublin supporter, the first proper game they were looking forward to was Mayo in August. Other than that, from January to August, if I were a supporter I wouldn’t have gone to any of those games. They’re training now for just one or two games a year.

“There should be a game every two weeks. I think it’s drawn out and consequently the club season is drawn out too. Players become disinterested, they’re going to America, they’re going to England and some of them don’t come back.”

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