GAA president says new deal with GPA has hit 'money' roadblock

John Horan acknowledges that money was a factor in talks with players’ body

John Horan: “We are in a very difficult position with the negotiations at the moment. I am not going to deny that.”  Photograph:  Ray McManus/Sportsfile

John Horan: “We are in a very difficult position with the negotiations at the moment. I am not going to deny that.” Photograph: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

 

Talks between the GAA and the Gaelic Players Association have hit serious difficulties, according to GAA president John Horan.

In a press briefing on the PwC All Stars tour to Abu Dhabi, he said discussions on the latest agreement governing relations between the bodies had hit “a roadblock” and that “money was a factor”. He added that there were “challenges in the relationship” between the organisations.

Ten years to the week since the interim agreement that first brought the players’ body under the Croke Park umbrella, the latest renewal of that deal is clearly proving problematic.

The current agreement, covering 2017-19 and which expires at the end of this year will remain in force for a further 12 months if talks do not reach a conclusion. Asked had agreement been nearly reached, Horan said:

“No, we are in a very difficult position with the negotiations at the moment. I am not going to deny that. We have hit a roadblock, and we are trying hard to get through that roadblock.

“But in the last agreement there is a proviso that if the negotiations weren’t resolved by the end of the year and the start of a new period it would continue on for another 12-month period. That is written in the actual original document. We are in a challenging position, and it is the reality, it is proving difficult.” 

Although he conceded that money was part of the difficulty – “it would be a factor, yeah” – the president said the GPA hadn’t been looking for a percentage of gate receipts.

“No, no, no, no, that hasn’t come on the table. I think if you go down that road of giving gates then you are into professionalism straight away. That’s the way you’d have to talk about that.”

The impasse centres on funding for the GPA. Under the current agreement, the players’ body receives a baseline €2,500,000 or 15 per cent of the GAA’s commercial income – whichever is higher – as well as other payments.

According to association accounts €3,500,000 was paid out in 2018 but player allowances, amounting to around €2,700,000 are accounted for by individual counties. It is these latter payments on mileage and other allowances that are believed to be at the heart of the current difficulties.

The extent of the current payments proved controversial amongst some members when introduced but Horan defended the arrangement.

Major haggles

“No, I think the view from our point of view with the last deal, the style of the deal, the 15 per cent model, was that we wouldn’t get into major haggles going forward. That the relationship would move to a different level – probably be more mature rather than a constant battle over finances. But look, we are where we are.”

Was it not inevitable that the GPA would look for greater funding?  “They came in and obviously felt justified in the arguments they made but we don’t see that from our side of the table. That’s the difficulty we’re in at the moment.”

Asked was he happy with the interventions by the GPA on other matters, the president referred to comments by the player’s CEO Paul Flynn, which were critical of the new Tier 2 football championship – an initiative spearheaded by Horan and passed by October’s special congress – to the point of suggesting that players may boycott it.

“Some of the commentary on Tier 2 has been more than unhelpful, particularly when there is a democratic decision made of 75-25 per cent. They do good work for the players, yeah. But like all these relationships, there are tensions there. And that’s probably the best way to have that relationship, that there is a bit of tension there. Sometimes it gets a little bit hotter than others. Look, you’d expect maturity on both sides to work away.”

“Look, there are challenges in our relationship, most definitely. As they would see it should be done and how we would see it should be done.”  Horan reacted sharply to mention of a previous interview given by Flynn in which he said that members are interested in semi-professionalism.

“Certainly from our point of view, sitting on our side of the table, the word amateur is not negotiable. That’s the way I feel about it.”

Horan also fired a shot across the bows of a project close to the GPA’s heart, the Super 11 hurling format, which took place in New York earlier this month before smaller crowds than had marked its earlier years when played in Boston’s Fenway Park.

“It’s certainly going to come under scrutiny. It has dropped off from the first year – the Boston factor and Galway were involved. Since then, the numbers have dropped on every occasion. It’s up for review on an annual basis whether it continues or not. Certainly it will be reviewed.  “My personal view is that it gives the players, the four All-Ireland semi-finalists, an opportunity to go away as a squad as an end-of-season reward. I’ve always said, that’s nice for the players to have it but the whole exercise has to wash its face from a financial point of view.”

Powder dry

Asked had it done so on this occasion, the president was sceptical.

“I don’t honestly have the figures but I’d say it’s challenged.”

The GPA responded by keeping their powder dry.  “The negotiating process is ongoing and it is our view that the parties would be best served by respecting the confidentiality of that process and therefore we will not be commenting on the content or nature of the negotiations until they have come to a conclusion.

“The GPA negotiating team remains committed to reaching an agreement that delivers value for our inter-county players and which replenishes in particular any out of pocket expenses accrued.”

The president also indicated that he favours moving the national leagues into the summer, as part of the championship. The radical remarks arose when he announced that the report of the Fixtures Calendar Review Task Force would be published next week.

“I personally would be very much in favour of one of the new proposals when they come out next week,” he said.

Asked what this was, he replied that the task force had one further meeting and that he wouldn’t comment before next week but he did elaborate on some of the ideas.

“There is the flip of the league from earlier in the year to the summer and then the creation of the four eights (rationalising the provincial structure). They are some of the ideas that are likely to come onto the table. You know, maybe the league in the summer could be the answer.”

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