Players want split season to stay and no extension of inter-county season: Parsons

Players’ body CEO renews call for abandonment of pre-season competitions while also taking aim at the LGFA and Camogie Association

GPA CEO Tom Parsons. (Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile)
GPA CEO Tom Parsons. (Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile)

GPA Chief Executive Tom Parsons says that “expanding the season with increased playing demands is not a solution” as he revealed that 85 per cent of players continue to support the split season.

Renewing calls for the abandonment of pre-season competitions, Parson will say in his address to the GPA’s AGM this morning that the GAA “is trying to squeeze to many competitions into an agreed window for inter-county players”.

The former Mayo midfielder, speaking at the end of his third year as CEO of the players’ body, suggested they would not support any extension of the length of the current inter-county season.

He also criticises the LGFA and Camogie Association for only recognising the GPA as the official body for their players “when it suits their needs”.

It’s expected that the GAA’s Central Council will hold a vote in September on whether to move the All-Ireland finals into August from next year onwards.

The Central Competitions Control Committee (CCCC) told an Ard Chomairle meeting at the weekend that their recommendation will be for the finals to remain in July and that the split season be retained.

In his address, Parsons notes that the season “already exceeds eight months of inter-county activity” and that with changes to the structure of the competition anticipated for 2025, issued a reminder that the GPA “continues to strongly support a split-season”.

63 per cent of players say that the split season reduces the time demands placed on them.

“A key challenge is the new structures were designed with the intention of pausing the pre-season competitions, and the GAA is trying to squeeze too many competitions into an agreed window for inter-county players,” said Parsons.

“Our members are elite amateur athletes, with growing professional and commercial demands to generate more income for the Governing Bodies to fund grassroots activities and infrastructure investments.

“Balancing commitments to their club, county, personal lives, and professional careers, continues to be a juggling act that is becoming increasingly unsustainable.

“A shorter season and defined break periods for inter-county players remain an absolute priority.

“Expanding the season with increased playing demands is not a solution to protect amateurism or reduce the load on players.

“Players, of course, support the concept of more meaningful, competitive games, but we find it increasingly challenging to justify pre-season competitions with overlapping eligibility issues in January, which add to the player load,” he added.

The removal of pre-season competitions would also feed into the GPA’s call for a “sufficient gap between league and championship”.

Westmeath lost their Leinster championship opener to Wicklow eight days after winning the Division Three title this year while Leitrim were beaten by Sligo having had the same rest after their Division Four final with Laois.

Dublin, Armagh, Down and Laois all started their championship campaigns two weeks after featuring in league finals with Derry and Donegal were both afforded three weeks just because of the way the fixtures fell.

Parsons also criticised the LGFA and Camogie Association for what he feels is a “contradictory” approach towards the GPA’s role.

The GPA amalgamated with the Women’s GPA in 2020 and are recognised as the official representative for female players.

“Players have the right to organise and be represented by their chosen elected body, the GPA,” said Parsons.

“However, the leadership of the LGFA and Camogie Association continue to only selectively recognise the GPA as the representative body when it suits their own needs.

“For example, the Associations work collaboratively with us on securing and administering state funding for players. In this process, the GPA is also recognised as the official player representatives by Sport Ireland and the Department of Sport.

“It is therefore contradictory of the Associations to state that they do not recognise the GPA on other matters that are important to players. “This issue has become increasingly pronounced since the #UnitedForEquality protest in 2023 and continues to be unacceptable.

“For clarity, the GPA is the official representative body for female inter-county players and will assert the rights of players on their behalf, to ensure fair treatment. In this capacity, the GPA looks forward to working collaboratively with the Associations,” he said.