Protecting players' interests an ongoing assignment
Interview with Dessie FarrellThe reduction in funding for the player grant scheme a major concern
Now, more then ever, the Gaelic Players Association must make a difference. There is increasing evidence of racism at club level, while the 2,200- strong players body have seen their government grants eroded on a yearly basis.
It is still up in the air what the players will receive for 2012.
A drop on the 2011 figure is expected, with a further decrease next year, when the money is finally funnelled from Minister of State for Tourism and Sport Michael Ring to the Sports Council coffers and then dripped into the new GPA offices in Northwood, Dublin 9.
The organisation’s major success story to date was agreeing a figure of €2,500 for any player involved in the 2007 All-Ireland final (with a sliding scale down to €500). Five years on, that figure is expected to fall below €750 (with a sliding scale below €350).
Dessie Farrell, GPA chief executive, recently discussed this constant battle and other challenges facing his organisation with The Irish Times.
Gavin Cummiskey: Wexford’s Lee Chin and Armagh’s Aaron Cunningham have shone a spotlight on racism in Gaelic games, what role can the GPA play here?
Dessie Farrell: We’ve a long standing relationship with “Show Racism The Red Card”, which is a very active organisation in a couple of different countries. Their remit is to change attitudes using sport as the format to do that.
It seems a more significant issue in the last 12 months. Obviously, it has been more prevalent in other sports and countries.
GC: Maybe that influenced your members who have been affected to speak up?
DF: There is a culture change. Years ago, when I started playing county football [in 1990], a box in the jaw was the medicine that was dished out but with the severe disciplinary stance that has been taken, by and large, at county level, that doesn’t happen any more.
Over the last 10 years the new ammunition has been sledging or verbal abuse, which is unfortunate but that’s how the game evolves.
It has evolved in many different ways in terms of sports science and tactics and trying to get an upper hand, to get inside an opponent’s head, rather than physical intimidation.
In the same way we tackled the issue of physical violence on the pitch, we need to tackle verbal abuse and particularly incidents of racism. We would be advocating zero tolerance.
GC: There’s heavier bans in soccer than GAA for racial abuse.
DF: To be fair to the GAA and Liam O’Neill, they are keen to address this in a meaningful way. Can we enshrine it in rule is the question. We would be advocating we do that.
The key to it is education and ensuring that the culture doesn’t permeate . . .
GC: The fact that men like Lee Chin and Aaron Cunningham are reporting it is a culture change in itself?
DF: Absolutely. I think individuals who do report it need to be complimented. A lot of this in about leadership. From the highest levels of the organisation, in terms of the penalties imposed, but also the players themselves or coaches or parents or whoever is involved to have the courage to report this and see out that process. Because it is a headache too . . . you have to put forward your case, there is an investigation. It doesn’t come without its challenges. And then just leadership in the general sense, if you see it happening to say: ‘Okay, I haven’t been affected but this is unacceptable’.
GC: Let’s move on to the Government’s player grant scheme. Do you expect the five per cent decrease in funding for the Sports Council, after the recent budget, to reflect the drop in grant money?
DF: We are not sure as we have not yet got 2012’s allocation. It’s going to be paid but we are in talks with the Minister (Michael Ring), the Department and Sports Council and hope to have an idea of funding next week.