GAA Football

32-county knockout idea "not on the table" says Brian McAvoy

Ulster GAA secretary Brian McAvoy. Picture by Hugh Russell.

ULSTER Council is very much planning for the provincial championships to form part of any revised format, with secretary Brian McAvoy saying the idea of removing them “is not on the table”.

The GAA’s Games Administration director Feargal McGill yesterday told RTÉ that there are currently no structural changes in place, but that London v Roscommon joined New York v Galway in being indefinitely postponed.

Some had suggested the idea of a 32-county knockout competition that had no provincial championships involved, but McAvo says that in their contingency planning, the idea has not been countenanced.

“That wouldn’t be any of the scenarios we’re discussing at the minute.

“I don’t think it’s going to be an option. You can run the championship off as quick running the provincial championship as opposed to 32-county straight knockout. It takes the same amount of time.

“It’s not on the table. I don’t understand where the cry’s coming from. Why? You’re not going to run it off any quicker, so why is it even a topic for discussion?”

The Ulster Championship is worth between £1.5m and £2m to the provincial body in gate receipts each year and McAvoy says that their ability to function would be greatly hampered if it wasn’t played.

“Could we survive and will there still be an Ulster Council? Yes. But would be able to do all that we’ve been doing to date? No we won’t.

“The Ulster Championship is our big earner, as it is for the other provincial councils. That’s what sustains the jobs, that’s why clubs are getting their grants. You lose all that and it has a knock-on effect down the road.”

Ulster GAA has a litany of coaches currently in employment, and with all games cancelled and schools closed for the foreseeable future, the provincial body has been looking at safeguarding their jobs.

McAvoy says it appears as though “some of our staff” will be eligible for the government’s furloughing scheme that would see 80 per cent of their wages paid by HMRC in the event of their jobs having to be cut.

However, he admits that it’s “highly unlikely” that all those currently in jobs “will be working flat out for the next three or four months”.

“Our coaches come in a number of different guises – so what applies to one coach may not apply to another. In relation to how our coaches are funded there are four different components.

“I cannot say what happens for one will definitely happen for another. Our coaches come from four different funding streams. Some of them are funded centrally, some of them are funded by us, some are funded by the executive.

“There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to that. We’re looking through all the options. I’d hope we’re able to keep all the jobs, but will they all be working flat out for the next three to four months? Highly unlikely.”

With increasing uncertainty about when sporting action will be allowed to resume across Ireland and the rest of the world, McAvoy says he hopes there is time at the tail end of the year for club championships to be properly run off.

“If we don’t get any activity by August, September, the season’s in real jeopardy by then. You might get something played, but it’d be very, very limited.

“I can tell you now that if we’re starting back at the start of May, nothing will change. But if we’re playing at the start of September, the calendar will look very different.

“You’d like to think you would have both All-Ireland and club championships, but already we know the whole calendar has been impacted on. Club leagues were due to start soon if they haven’t started already.

“Already we know the club calendar has suffered, as the county calendar has.

“We’d still like to be in a position where hopefully club championships can be played at some part of the year.”

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GAA Football