Club Players' Association raises concerns over GAA plans for return to action
THE GAA's plan to lift the ban (health risks permitting) on club action in July has run into a major obstacle if the results of a survey carried out by the Club Players' Association (CPA) accurately reflects the feelings of club players throughout the country.
While the CPA survey showed that less than a quarter (22 per cent) of the 3,008 players who responded will refuse to return to training and games with their clubs until a Covid-19 vaccine is developed, only 57 of players said they would definitely return to action.
After months of inactivity, professional sport in some European countries is preparing for, or is close to making, a return to action. In Germany, the Bundesliga will resume at the weekend and there have been discussions about holding a behind-closed-doors boxing bill being held in Belfast in July.
However, CPA chairman Micheal Briody highlighted the differences in the lifestyle of professional athletes and the amateur players of the GAA. As he points out, the vast majority of those players will return to work and their families after training or games risking the spread of infection to work colleagues, friends and relatives.
“All sporting bodies are faced with the unenviable task of determining when it is safe for their games to resume in light of the Covid-19 pandemic shut down,” said Briody.
“The GAA as an amateur body, probably has a more difficult task than most because their players all work or study so it is not possible to bubble-wrap them between games. Those players will return to families, workplaces, schools or colleges and the task of contact tracing becomes more difficult.”
Briody said he welcomed the formation of the GAA's Covid-19 Advisory Group but added that he was disappointed that there was no representative from the CPA on it. However, he said the medical experts should decide the direction taken by the GAA during the Coronavirus crisis.
“We are pleased that Croke Park has formed a Covid-19 Advisory Group,” he said.
“It is disappointing that there is no direct advocate for the club playing population but it is very positive to see four doctors on the Group. It should be the advice of the medical experts that trump any other stakeholder in the room.”
The CPA have sent the findings of their survey to the GAA and Briody urged the Association to take note of the sterling community service carried out by clubs throughout Ireland over the last two months. He feels it is further evidence that the clubs should be the focal point of GAA planning.
“We have sent a copy of the survey results yesterday to Ard Stiúrthóir Tom Ryan so he could pass it onto the Covid-19 Advisory Group,” he said.
“We have also indicated to him that we will make available our database of members to the Advisory Group should they wish to survey or communicate with club players on any point in their deliberations.
“The importance of the GAA's role in every community around Ireland was highlighted by the extent of voluntary initiatives organized by clubs to assist people in need of help during the pandemic.
“This further brings to focus the need of the GAA to remember the grass roots of the organization as they grapple with restructuring the fixtures calendar for 2021.”