GAA Football

GAA is in crisis towards professionalism, claims Club Players' Association

The GAA is in crisis, claims Club Players' Association, who have called for urgent action from Croke Park
Andy Watters

THE GAA is in crisis, claim the Club Players’ Association (CPA), who say the Croke Park leadership are on a course towards professionalism which will result in “pride of place” being superseded by “price of place”.

In a hard-hitting statement released yesterday, the CPA claimed that the GAA had ignored their recent appeals to “recalibrate” the playing season and were putting the community ethos and very future of the Association at stake.

“The GAA is currently in the middle of a very dangerous atmosphere which needs to be addressed in advance of 2021,” read the statement.

“If a satisfactory set of fixtures cannot be agreed then this totally unnecessary and poisonous atmosphere will further escalate and damage our Association even further.”

The CPA chief concerns centre around four “inextricably linked” factors: Fixtures, finance, a lack of central governance and a loss of the GAA’s identity as a community-based sporting and cultural organisation with the club at its core.

“The crisis in fixtures is one of the primary causes of the financial difficulties because the cost of team management at both club and inter-county levels is unsustainable,” claimed the statement.

“The predominance of inter-county activity has led to an erosion of the Association’s core values as a community-based organisation and to a diminution of the club games programme.

“It has also led to the unnecessary ongoing friction between club and county over the availability of our elite players.

“The lack of proper governance structures means that there is no central control over the management of the national games programme. National and provincial competitions have developed in piecemeal fashion and there has never been a strategic games plan.

“Competition structures vary widely, devised and implemented by a wide range of administrations across the Association. Team managers are appointed without proper control over appointment procedures, work practices and remuneration. Rules, where they exist, are not being enforced.

“Regrettably, the perception of the GAA at national and provincial levels has become that of a corporate elitist organisation which has income generation and a focus on a small elite of its top players at the core of its activities.

“Thus two per cent of the playing membership gets priority to the detriment of the remaining 98 per cent. As a result, inter-county activity gets priority over the needs of the vast majority of our playing members.”

The CPA claimed that there was “widespread concern” across the ranks of GAA members that the Association’s “alleged corporate and elitist policy priorities” will lead it on a path towards a semi-professional/professional structure.

“If left unchecked, this will remove our valued infrastructure of county and parish boundaries, together with control over the movement of players. In such circumstances pride of place will be replaced by price of place,” it continued.

The CPA has published it’s roadmap for averting the crisis beginning with the establishment of a national games programme which designates separate periods for club, inter-county and third level games.

Once it is in place, the CPA has tabled the following framework for progression:

1. Competitions designed to fit within those time windows.

2. Structures set out in a manner that will ensure that there will be no conflict for players between the various groups.

3. Clear central control structures to include the enforcement of existing rules, creating new rules where needed and strictly applying appropriate sanctions for breaches.

4. Publish the proposed plan to all clubs so that they may decide on the outcome.

5. A national referendum of all clubs under which clubs will hold General Meetings to decide the outcome.

6. A Special Congress, remote if necessary, before the end of 2020 so that any agreed change may be implemented in time for 2021, with Central Council ensuring full representation.

The statement continued: “The very future of the GAA which we all love is at stake.

“We are pleading with the Association’s leadership at national level to take whatever remedial steps are necessary and with the utmost of urgency.

“As elected leaders and/or paid executives, our leaders have been given the responsibility to lead. “Leadership in this instance means taking immediate and urgent steps that will fix the fixtures, give the Association back to its grassroots members and restore the GAA to being a community-based Gaelic Games and culture organization with the club at its core.

Highlighting the leadership shown by the GAA in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, the CPA called for “strong leadership, direction and action”.

“The Association was able to take swift and decisive action on fixtures as we faced the Coronavirus threat,” claimed the players’ body.

“When Coronavirus ceases to be a threat, the fixtures problem of our own creation will still be with us and will not have gone away.

“The GAA has proven it can take decisive action, the question is now: Does it want to because faced with drop out, disillusionment and dissent? We need to stop this problem in its tracks, eliminate the problems at source and flatten the fixtures curve.

“We are today calling on the leadership of the Association to give clarity to their members within the next two weeks on how they plan to resolve the crisis we have outlined above and if they are prepared to take on board our suggested solution.

“We are here to assist the Association in any way, at any time, in any place and at our own expense.”

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