GAA club players allege media biased towards Duffy reform

Association remains emphatically opposed to proposed football championship changes

The Club Players’ Association (CPA) are claiming an “overly friendly” bias within certain sections of the media towards Páraic Duffy’s proposed reform to the All-Ireland football championship – particularly given the “conflicted interest” within RTÉ.

Speaking ahead of this weekend’s congress in Croke Park, CPA chairman Micheál Briody has also questioned the democratic process through which the proposals will be voted on. The association remains staunchly opposed to both the timing and nature of Duffy’s reform, even after the GAA’s director general’s proposal was broken into three separate motions and, if passed, would only be implemented on a three-year temporary basis.

Briody and other CPA representatives met Duffy last week to formally declare their objections, requesting the motions be removed from the congress clár, and that the GAA instead engage on a period of consultation with the CPA.

“We did have a private meeting with Páraic last week, discussed our stance, and pleaded with him to withdraw the proposals,” said Briody. “Okay, he didn’t. No surprise there.


"But what we also think is that senior media have not been overly friendly, or overly fair, to the alternative argument, because there is conflict of interest. That would be mainly within RTÉ. We saw the segment on the League Sunday, last Sunday, where they discussed the proposals, and never once gave the alternative view. No one looked at it.

‘Conflicted interest’

“The fact that RTÉ are a sponsor of the championship and therefore had a conflicted interest wasn’t lost on our members as RTÉ licence payers.

“So we’d be very aware of the media bias that’s out there. RTÉ talked about all the work being done on it, taking it around the country. Where? Who asked any players? Everyone is going around patting themselves on the back, and we’re going ‘my God, where is the voice of the club player? And the intercounty player?’ Because this is wrong, and the GAA needs to stop it now and put in a proper solution.”

Briody also confirmed that the CPA’s request to speak at congress on Saturday was turned down by GAA president Aogán Ó Fearghaíl. There are two separate motions that seek to give the CPA formal recognition, and Briody had anticipated the CPA would get the chance to outline their stance to the congress delegates.

“We wrote to the president [as required under rule 3.35] to formally request the right to speak at congress on behalf of over 20,000 members. He has replied denying us the opportunity to speak, stating it would be inappropriate. The uachtarán, in doing this, has ignored the will of more than 20,000 CPA players.

“This was not unexpected: it is disappointing, but it doesn’t change our single-minded approach in representing all our members. This isn’t about granting us speaking access. It’s about fixing fixtures. I know some counties have come out in favour, but whether these motions will get 66 per cent, I just don’t know.

“Originally, there were the one motion, then it was broken up to three. Now it’s a three-year experiment. All we’re looking for here is democracy. And there is no democracy in the way these motions were put through.”

Central to the reform of the All-Ireland football championship, as proposed by Duffy and endorsed by central council, is the new “Super 8” phase, which would feature the four provincial winners and four qualifiers, divided into two groups of four (each county would play three games, with the top two in either group qualifying for the semi-finals). There are separate motions to bring the All-Ireland finals forward to the month of August, and also demand extra-time in all championship games (with the exceptions of the provincial and All-Ireland finals).

Plight of club player “In effect, the proposals will create an elite ‘Super 8’ of counties, and it does nothing for the plight of the club player in those counties. It also does nothing for hurling. 

“So certainly within our members, we still don’t agree on all three, because there was no consultation with us,” said Briody, who was appointed CPA chairman given his extensive club experience in his native Co Meath. He is also chief executive of the succesful Silver Hill Farm in Emyvale, Co Monaghan.

Briody also questioned a sponsored GAA tweet, posted during the week, where former Kerry All-Ireland winner Mikey Sheehy expressed his support for Duffy’s proposals.

“Is that where GAA money is going? It fully supports only one side of the argument. I found that astonishing. Look, we have our own tweets and Facebook that we do sponsor as well, but we’ve presented Duffy’s proposal as well, asked our members what they think of it.

“Once again we ask, why can these proposals that have been promoted so aggressively and single-mindedly by the GAA not be parked, so that we can get the right solution in place for our players?

“The GAA have diagnosed that they have a broken leg, and they’re putting a cast on their arm. The provinces are here to stay. Says who? Why is that a given? There is one opportunity for change and they’re passing it by.

“Our agenda is simple, and it’s not about financial demands, or commercial endorsements, or putting in requests for equipment or nutrition to county boards, as has been suggested. It is about players playing games. That is what the GAA was established to do. That’s what players want to do.

“We have called the GAA to take on board other stakeholders’ views. They agree with us on that, as they say they are canvassing county boards for their fixtures issues. Surely common sense must prevail here? It’s about what’s right, not who is right.”

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist writing on athletics