Derry club seeks legal advice over gap in GAA 'insurance' cover
AFTER one of their players almost lost his leg in an horrific on-field accident, a Derry GAA club has taken legal advice and criticised the county board's decision to play games while players were not covered for loss of wages under the association's injury fund.
St Oliver Plunkett's Greenlough midfielder Niall Bradley had to be airlifted to hospital after coming down badly from contesting a high ball in his club's first league game of this year.
The clubs in Derry had six days earlier been asked to vote on their preferred option for the reinstatement of loss of wages cover, following a Central Council meeting on May 22 which had proposed two choices.
A majority of clubs chose to accept an extra 25 per cent levy on their existing insurance payment in order to bring the scheme back.
However, the scheme was not actually reinstated until June 1 – two days after Bradley suffered his catastrophic injuries, which have left him still in a leg brace and facing up to ten months off work.
The GAA decided in 2020 to pause the part of its ‘insurance' cover for players that allowed injured players to claim for loss of professional earnings.
The player's family and club last week handed over a cheque for £4,130 to the NI Air Ambulance service, which came to his aid when he received the injury.
As he had to undergo emergency surgery on the NHS, Bradley didn't need to claim for the cost of the operation, which the GAA's player injury fund covers privately up to certain financial limits.
While the scheme is often referred to as an insurance scheme for players, the GAA have always referred to it as a player injury fund, and encouraged all players to take out their own private insurance before taking part in games.
The GAA made the decision to pause cover for loss of wages in December 2020 but following a pushback from counties and clubs, discussions were held about a potential levy to reinstate the cover as far back as mid-March.
However, no decision was forthcoming until the end of May, by which stage the inter-county season was well underway and club games had resumed in many counties.
Derry had begun pre-season game in early May and began its leagues the week before Bradley's injury occurred.
St Oliver Plunkett's Greenlough said in a statement that they felt the county board should not have scheduled games when “proper insurance cover was not in place”.
“We as a club feel that matches should not have been scheduled by Derry CCC when the proper insurance cover was not in place - in this instance it was 48 hours out.
“Basically, every senior and reserve player in Derry took the field for their first league game on May 30 with no cover for loss of wages should they have got injured.
“We have a player whose football career is over. He will be off work for a least 8 – 10 months, he has a young family and just recently moved into a new house. We feel there has to be a duty of care to him in this instance.”
In a statement released to the County Derry Post,, Derry GAA defended its scheduling of games for the period where players weren't covered for loss of wages.
“Inter-county fixtures and club fixtures were scheduled nationally prior to the June 1 restoration of the loss of earnings component of the player injury fund,” said a spokesperson.
“Derry GAA lobbied and voted at Central Council level for the restoration of the scheme.
“Derry GAA continues to work with central units of the GAA on behalf of all affected players with the aim of bringing these matters to a satisfactory conclusion.”
The GAA did not respond to a request for comment.