Eugene McGee says problem of fixtures congestion is getting worse

‘The club situation at the moment is outrageous and we couldn’t blame club players if half of them just walked away’

Former chairman of the Football Review Committee Eugene McGee. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Former chairman of the Football Review Committee Eugene McGee. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

 

The former chair of the Football Review Committee has challenged the GAA to come up with a better plan to address the fixtures crisis if the organisation doesn’t want to accept the FRC recommendations, which are to be discussed at tomorrow’s Central Council meeting.

Eugene McGee is at pains to emphasise that the committee, which conducted the widest ranging consultation process in the history of the association, is now stood down – “decommissioned,” as he puts it – but says that the problems addressed by its second report, released last December are getting worse.

FRC II – whose most eye-catching proposal is to organise the All-Ireland championship on the basis of four groups of eight – is to be considered with a view to how its ideas can be taken forward, as it was not on the agenda of this year’s annual congress.

“I hope it’s understood that the proposals are a package,” said McGee. “The bigger picture we’d to deal with was the fixtures crisis in the GAA and this was our contribution. The fixtures problem is a club fixtures problem and that continues to deteriorate by the year.

“We didn’t come up with the four eights format for the sake of it. The idea is to introduce a more balanced fixtures programme at inter-county level. We also proposed that three rounds of club championship be played by early July and the All-Ireland club final to be fixed for the first week in December – to force counties to play off their own fixtures in a reasonable manner.

“The club situation at the moment is outrageous and we couldn’t blame club players if half of them just walked away in disgust.”

Unlike the situation with FRC’s first report, which addressed football rules and tackled the issue of cynical play and calculated fouling – leading to the current black card dispensation, which has had a substantial influence on matches so far – the committee stepped down on the completion of FRC II and didn’t tour the country actively advocating its acceptance.

“This is different,” according to McGee. “The first report addressed a number of specific issues with proposals but this is a bigger picture. It’s our way of dealing with the fixtures issue, more of a White Paper but it came from the same wide consultative process as the disciplinary proposals. If there are other ways of doing that, let’s hear what they are but I’d be anxious that it gets dealt with.”

One of the other items on tomorrow’s agenda is the deferral of the recent congress decision to prohibit under-16s from playing minor for their counties until next year. Proposed by Tipperary club Moyle Rovers, the motion to exclude under-16s from minor selection was passed by 68 per cent to 32 at last month’s congress.

The GAA has already indicated that the proposal would be best implemented at the start of a season rather than when one was under way and earmarked the next Central Council meeting as the date to deal with the matter. The relevant proposal has come from Laois, the county of GAA president Liam O’Neill.

Speaking to this newspaper about the motion to be proposed, Laois county chair Gerry Kavanagh said that whereas they have a number of players affected by the situation, he felt that the broader issue was one of fairness.

“We had three involved and just to avoid disappointment for them having to be removed from the minor panel. We thought that this was unfair and that we would seek a deferral on the implementation. The welfare of young players is paramount and that was the whole reason for it coming before congress. We would be in agreement with that but just asking for a bit of breathing space on it.”

As one of the smaller populations within the GAA, Laois minors would be more affected by the loss of under-16s but Kavanagh says that this is not a matter of concern.

“There’s very little any of us can do about that. That’s demographics and that’s the way it is. We don’t have an issue with that. Dublin has a population and Kildare has a population and Laois has a population – we just get on with it.”

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