GAA Football

GPA wants to reduce time commitments of inter-county players

The GPA will address the high amount of time inter-county players spend on their sport

THE Gaelic Players Association [GPA] wants to reduce the time commitments of inter-county players following a couple of damning reports with Paul Flynn insisting Jim Gavin’s Dublin team trained less than every other team in the country.

The pandemic may have slowed the Darwinian nature of the inter-county game, but the GPA say they want to grasp the thorny issue of reducing players’ time commitments in order for them to have a better life balance.

The 2018 ESRI report, commissioned by the GAA and GPA, found that inter-county players were spending on average 31 hours per week on their sport while the 2019 student report - 'A Juggling Act' - revealed equally concerning findings.

Fifty-two per cent of respondents insisted they were spending too much time on their sport while 77 per cent felt they weren’t able to spend proper time with their family and friends because of the time commitments to the inter-county game.

How effective the GPA can be in trying to reduce the high amount of time an inter-county player spends on their sport remains to be seen.

Flynn said: “The idea of contact hours is used in other sports and it is certainly used in sports science to identify what is the ideal time or optimal time required for high-performing athletes to be able to deliver on their chosen sport.

“Using sports science and using the information that we have [from other commissioned reports] and using our intel as well we believe that we can identify what best practice is.”

Flynn, now retired from the inter-county scene, added: “In all my years playing under Jim Gavin I believe we trained less than every other county in the country – that was always my belief when I spoke to other players and learned what they were doing.

“We were doing less and it was because we were training smart and I think if we can adopt a smart training model across the country we can definitely reduce the 31 hours while still allowing the game to naturally develop, grow and evolve because it is based on sports science.

“I believe we can identify what the optimal hours are but it’ll take a collaboration between county boards, the GAA and ourselves to implement.”

Explaining motion two that relates to time commitments of inter-county players, GPA secretary Tom Parsons said: “From our ESRI report and the GPA’s student report, there is no doubt it: players are struggling to balance on and off the field commitments. And there are compromises players are making in playing our inter-county games.

“This motion, first and foremost, is going to be science-led and really the objective here is to provide greater clarity on what is the optimal time required for players to devote to their inter-county games. We’d be targeting those 31 hours per week. Do we need that amount of physical contact time with our games?”

Meanwhile, the GPA executive members who were on yesterday’s zoom meeting with reporters - Flynn, Parsons and Head of Finance Ciaran Barr - were asked why the players’ body had an image problem among the wider GAA populace.

Flynn gave an impassion reply.

“One of the key reasons why I took on this role is because I’m very, very proud to be an inter-county player, I’m very, very proud to be a member of the GPA and understood deeply how it assisted me to find that balance. To give you a bit of background, when I started off inter-county I was working on sites plumbing and trying to find a way in life and the GPA was there for me right from the start of my career on the pitch and it took me to places where I never believed I could go.

“Players understand that and that’s why we get phenomenal responses and phenomenal engagement in programmes. Unfortunately, that isn’t fully understood by everybody. I still don’t believe that people understand what our three pillars are: player representation, player welfare and player development.

“A good example of that is in relation to sanctions around non-compliance with [club and county] windows. I do feel there’s a misinterpretation about all the elements of what we do. That’s why we’re taking you all through our annual report; that’s why we’re keen for you all to understand what exactly it is the GPA is here to do.”

The perception, rightly or wrongly, is that too much money is showered on the players’ body at a time when the GAA has had to put the brakes on several high-profile capital and coaching projects around the country.

“We’re trying to articulate our message better,” said chairman Seamus Hickey. “There is nobody universally popular in the sporting world, in the GAA world, in pop culture, so it comes with the territory of being out there. You take opinions as they’re generated because it’s a free country. We can only be consistent and hopefully people will pick up the message.”

***Highlights of GPA’s annual report***

* The GPA turned over more than €7.5m in revenue in 2019

* 81% of GPA’s income was spent on player development/welfare programmes. 1,448 players were supported by programmes. An increase of 31% on 2018. 2,221 programmes were delivered in 2019

* 14% spent on Operational costs

* 3% on other programmes

* 1% on organisational development

* 2% surplus

* Total staff costs of €742,367 increased by 3.3%. The 10 employees of the GPA earn on average €65,000 per year. The 3.3% increase is attributable to roles remaining vacant throughout parts of 2018

* The Association has reported a net surplus of €87,674 in 2019 compared to €306,300 in 2018

* Total GAA funding to the GPA amounted to €2,970,572 as a result of the 15% link to the GAA’s Central Council Net Commercial Revenues

* €3m from Sport Ireland via the GAA was paid directly to senior inter-county players on an accrual basis in 2019, overseen by the GPA

* Fundraising income for 2019 of €611,994 came primarily from the Hurling and Football Former Players Events, the Super 11’s and Gala Dinner events in New York and the Boston CEO luncheon. Commercial income of €911,007 were generated by the Le Chéile commercial partnership 

Too full report log on to...

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

GAA Football