GAA Football

Fergal McCusker backs new GPA deal

GPA founding member Fergal McCusker says an improved deal for GAA players is a good thing, but he remains cautious over the "blurred line" between the deal and paying players. Picture by Seamus Loughran

GPA founding member Fergal McCusker has backed the players’ body’s new €6.2m-per-year deal with the GPA, but admits the line towards paying players is becoming increasingly blurred.

Under a new three-year deal announced on Monday, players will benefit from an improved mileage rate and a new allowance for ‘nutrition’. The GPA - whose deal was negotiated by a team containing Dermot Earley, Séamus Hickey, Richie Hogan and Paul Flynn - will also receive an increased share of the association’s commercial revenue.

An agreement made in 2015 gave the GPA €2m of the commercial revenue, but that will increase to €2.5m or 15 per cent of the net central commercial income, whichever is higher. The mileage rate, which has been in place since 2001, will increase from 50 cent per mile (42 pence) to 65 cent (54 pence), up to a limit of €1.5m per annum. A ‘nutrition allowance’ will be available for those with vouched nutritional expenses, while €200,000 per year will be set aside to assist former county players with surgery. 

Former Derry defender McCusker was one of the players involved in founding the GPA back in 1999 and has been critical in the past of the body “losing touch” with the issues it was founded to deal with. But the Watty Graham’s, Glen man believes players should be reimbursed for the growing expenses associated with playing inter-county football.

“I love to see the players being looked after within the bounds of the amateur status and keeping that intact. I’m sure they’ve thought this out and it does. But that line is becoming more and more blurred as the years go on,” he said.

”If it’s legitimate and there are expenses, things like diet are very important for players now. Nutrition is a big part of looking after yourself. In our day, it was maybe being off the drink for three or four months before Championship and staying out of the burger van at the end of the street. Things have progressed a lot since then.

“It’s a science now and players are very, very careful about the fuel they’re putting into their bodies. These things aren’t cheap either. So if they’re helping them out that way, from an expenses point of view, I don’t mind.”

On the issue of the increased mileage rate for players, McCusker added: “So be it. There’s inflation and petrol and cars aren’t getting any cheaper.

“That was the remit of the GPA when it was set up, you shouldn’t be out of pocket for playing Gaelic football at least, especially at that level. If it’s boots and gear and nutrition and mileage, fair enough.”

While he has backed the improvement in terms for players under the new deal, the two-time Ulster medalist has warned the GAA risks losing its identity if it carries on down a money-led path: “I’m just always cautious because the more ground that’s conceded and the more the line is blurred, the closer we get to the stage where the next step is players getting a percentage of the gate and being paid for playing," he added.

“The bottom line, the success of the GAA is parish and neighbourly rivalry. Whether that’s via county teams or two neighbouring or two parish rivals, that’s what it boils down to. If it does come down to money, Dublin would be the Real Madrid of the GAA world. The beauty of it is, and always will be, that this is where you come from and this is who you play for.

“If you introduce money into it, it muddies everything and the person writing the cheques will be the most successful. There’s that argument already with Dublin because of their size. They’ve got their act together and good luck to them, they’re doing nothing wrong.

"But if it becomes a matter of pay for play, you can just forget about it.”

GAA Football

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