GAA Football

Loss of earnings won't be covered by GAA insurance in 2021

The GAA's injury benefit scheme will not cover injured players for loss of professional earnings in 2021. Picture by Seamus Loughran

THE GAA's player injury fund will not cover players for loss of professional earnings in 2021 in order to “secure the future viability of the scheme”.

The fund, which has been in existence since 1929, is unique in that it offers all registered playing members what is effectively insurance cover for serious injuries.

Clubs pay into the injury fund but with the scheme having been run at an annual loss that has been covered by the GAA moving gate receipt money across.

In 2019, counties paid in €6.2m to cover the cost of claims, but the total outgoing for the year was just over €8.1m. The GAA paid in €2.5m from gate receipt money to make up the shortfall, having moved €2.1m across in 2018.

The GAA's injury benefit scheme has previously covered players who suffer an injury in the course of GAA activity for up to €300-per-week for a maximum of 26 weeks, to protect those who have to take time off work.

30 per cent of annual claims made to the fund were to cover the loss of earnings, with the other 70 per cent spent on direct treatment of injuries such as surgery.

The absence of any income from gate receipts in 2020, and quite possibly for the whole of 2021 as well, has meant there will be a huge hole in the GAA's finances across two years.

The association was faced with cutting the cost of running the scheme and made the decision to cut the cover for loss of earnings.

While the injury fund will continue to exist and will cover the cost of injury claims, the GAA has always encouraged players to have their own private insurance and that the scheme was only intended to be a secondary cover for any holes in private insurance.

None of the other major sporting organisations in Ireland offers a scheme like the GAA's injury fund, with local amateur soccer and rugby players reliant on their own insurance in the event of serious injury.

The GAA had brought in record revenues of €73.9m in 2019 but having redistributed around 80 per cent of their annual income, the onset of the Covid-19 crisis has left the association facing financial strife.

Last week, Director of Communications Alan Milton said the association was facing another “massive financial hit” because of the lack of crowds likely to be permitted to games in the coming months.

"The GAA is going to take a massive financial hit this year because it's the right thing to do to ensure that 100 per cent of our players, namely the club players, get to play games this year,” he said.

"Otherwise, we'd be looking to have the All-Ireland [Finals] in quarter four, when we could possibly have crowds back.

"But that would mean we mightn't be able to play any club games, because they can only play in Level 2 or 3, whereas the counties could be back now if we wanted them to be back: Level 5 is permissible, look at the rugby [Pro14 matches have been taking place].

"We have no inkling when we'll be back at Levels 2 or 3. So you could have kept all this time and space to play club games – but because you're not in Level 2 or 3 you can't play them.

"Then you'd end up playing the county games [later in the year] which would leave the clubs high and dry," Milton told The Irish News.

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GAA Football