Return to 1A/1B format on table as part of championship reform proposals
A LEAGUE-based championship that would go back to the old 1A/1B divisions is one of two fresh radical to reform the All-Ireland football championship.
The GAA’s management committee met last night to discuss the two options put forward by the newly-formed fixtures task force and agreed that both should be put forward to counties.
Central Council will meet on January 22 to decide which, if either, proposal they should back for Congress in February.
One of the proposals, titled the ‘Red Proposal’, is the bones of the ‘Proposal B’ plan that achieved just over 50 per cent support at Special Congress in October, but with some significant tweaks made.
That idea would see the provincial championships played in February and March before a league-based championship, but notably the league section would revert to the old 1A/1B league system.
That would mean the breaking up of the current structures of both league and championship, with the current Divisions 1-4 effectively being split into two 16s.
The top two divisions would be mixed up among each other, as would the bottom two, with the top four from 1A and 1B, as well as the top teams from 2A and 2B qualifying for the knockout stages of the All-Ireland.
In an apparent bid to appease the provincial councils, who railed against the original Proposal B on account of its ‘devaluing’ of the provincial championships, there will be a link under both proposals.
Winners of the provincial championships would receive two points for the league stage, while provincial runners-up would receive one point.
Writing in his annual report to convention recently, Cork GAA secretary Kevin O’Donovan proposed what has now been put before the management committee.
From a national perspective, a significant disappointment in 2021 was the failure of Proposal B to gain enough
votes ensure implementation, despite securing a majority of the vote and despite being the clear choice of the
players,” said O’Donovan.
“Ultimately, an All-Ireland championship based on unbalanced provincial structures is no longer fit for purpose.”
The second proposal, the ‘Green Proposal’, will be based around a plan long promoted by former GAA president Sean Kelly, which would split the championship into two tiers at the end of a traditional National League campaign.
Based on the current Divisions 1-4, the top 16 teams would play for Sam Maguire and the bottom 16 in the Tailteann Cup, with the possible exception of a county that reaches a provincial final from outside the top 16.
Anyone doing so would automatically be seeded in the Sam Maguire competition, which would begin with groups of four.
The top team in each group would qualify for the last eight, with second and third placed teams playing off for the remaining quarter-final spots.
In a list of basic principles behind the idea, the GAA noted that especially improving developing counties and giving all teams a chance of winning Sam Maguire were central.
In the aftermath of the relatively warm receipt of Proposal B at Special Congress, where it received just over 50 per cent support in the room, GAA president Larry McCarthy and director-general Tom Ryan had both committed to having further proposals ready in time for debate at the beginning of 2022.
Both men were named on a new task force that included Feargal McGill (GAA director of club, player, and games administration), Derek Kent (Leinster vice-chairman) and the four provincial vice-chairmen.
Despite concerns that the make-up of that committee could be obstructive to change given that the four provincial councils were all against the changes proposed in October, they have moved swiftly to sign off on fresh proposals.
Any potential change would be implemented in 2023 at the earliest.