GPA: Players will not take part in proposed B championship

Players’ body calls on GAA to re-open discussion on championship reform

Gaelic Players Association chief executive Dessie Farrell. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

Gaelic Players Association chief executive Dessie Farrell. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

 

The Gaelic Players Association has announced that players won’t take part in any All-Ireland B championship, as proposed to this month’s annual congress. In a statement issued on Friday afternoon the GPA also called on the GAA to re-open discussions on football championship reform.

The players’ body has already expressed its unhappiness at the failure of its own championship reforms to be accepted for discussion at congress and had informed the GAA that its members were opposed to a B championship before Central Council nonetheless decided to send just such a motion forward to this year’s clár.

Although Croke Park officials argued that the B proposals would be qualitatively different than the Tommy Murphy Cup – the GAA’s previous B competition which was discontinued in 2008 – it has been apparent that the proposal was unlikely to be supported by sufficient delegates.

Central Council reviewed 18 proposals for football championship reform, which were narrowed down to three for final consideration. One of the few consensus ideas was the B All-Ireland although in the absence of players’ support it was never likely to become reality.

GAA director general Páraic Duffy specifically addressed the GPA proposals at the launch of his annual report, stressing that they had been welcomed and carefully considered but ruled out on three fundamental grounds.

First the format would nearly double the number of championship matches whereas part of the Central Council consensus was that there should be no additional fixtures. Second was the potential for more one-sided matches – one of the catalyst concerns that prompted the championship review – as lower division counties would all have to play higher-ranked teams and third the historic lack of enthusiasm for round-robin format amongst the GAA public.

The GPA statement went on to say that players, “ . . . understand that they are only one key group with views on this issue. However, we would encourage the GAA, post Congress, to establish a high powered freestanding working group to address the football competitions debacle and related issues.

“We suggest this group includes a strong representation of county players and club players who are the individuals most affected by the current procrastination. The views of county players have been communicated to the GAA in this regard.”

It is unlikely that the GAA will respond to the statement pending the matter’s imminent discussion at annual congress in three weeks.

The full GPA statement reads

“County teams directly affected by the introduction of a B football championship have agreed unanimously that they will not participate in any new structure if this format is approved by congress later this month.

“The GPA has consulted extensively with squad reps from the Division 4 squads and a significant majority of players in each county have indicated that they will refuse to play in B competition proposed by Central Council in January.

“The players’ body has contacted the GAA on behalf of the membership and indicated that the issue of football competitions must be revisited and a solution found to the current challenges around viable structures.

“As stated by the GPA from the outset of the process, the player proposals were never envisaged to be accepted as a fait accompli. However, the GPA clearly indicated that a B championship concept would not be supported by players.

“The GPA reiterates its rejection of the claims that a more condensed county playing season would impact negatively on club fixtures and in particular state that the current, protracted format, is impacting severely on club fixture programmes. One of the specific aims of the players’ proposals was to tackle the training culture that pervades the GAA at all levels.

“It is inconceivable to think that after this lengthy process the status quo will pertain while there is a growing consensus for urgent change amongst players; club and county, supporters and now administrators.

“While the GPA welcomes the debate generated over the past six months there is a need to now establish a more effective process to bring about the change required. The GPA wishes to collaborate with all stakeholders within the GAA in an effort to establish an agreed new structure as the process put in place in this instance proved highly ineffective.

“County players (through the GPA) understand that they are only one key group with views on this issue. However, we would encourage the GAA, post Congress, to establish a high powered freestanding working group to address the football competitions debacle and related issues. We suggest this group includes a strong representation of county players and club players who are the individuals most affected by the current procrastination. The views of county players have been communicated to the GAA in this regard.

“The GPA would also call on delegates at the upcoming GAA Congress to vote against any proposal supporting a B Championship and are encouraging all football county squads to canvass their respective county delegates on this matter.

“Separately, the GPA would urge delegates to support the motion going to Congress proposing change to the U21FC format, reducing the age limit to U20, in an attempt to alleviate pressure on number of younger county players early in each season. This was one of a number of recommendations issued in the GPA Student Report – Never Enough Time, published last May.”

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