The National Executive Committee of the Gaelic Players Association (GPA) have taken the unprecedented measure of writing to all county board chairs and secretaries urging them to back the reform to the football championship structures at Special Congress later this month.
The intention is that they share the content of the letter with all delegates set to vote on the matter, so that in the words of the GPA, those “who are making the decision on the future of the football championship structure to know the view of players”.
Last week, GPA chief executive Tom Parsons also called on the GAA leadership to promote discussion on the reforms while also expressing the organisation's strong support for Option B. According to Parsons, 80 per cent of those who replied to a GPA survey (about 30 per cent of the 1,200 football membership) and 90 per cent of the county reps who had spoken to their panels were in favour of Option B.
The letter, signed on behalf of the National Executive Committee, starts out: “First of all, we want to explain why we are taking this unprecedented step of addressing you directly. On October 23rd a decision will be made on the future structure of the senior football championship. This will have far reaching consequences for Gaelic Football and for players who invest an incredible amount of time in representing their county to the best of their ability.
“We would like to ensure all delegates are aware of players’ views on the importance of this issue. At the most recent GAA Central Council meeting the Gaelic Players Association (GPA) representative, Tom Parsons, as mandated by the GPA National Executive Committee, requested but was not afforded, the opportunity to reflect the views of the players. Therefore, we are writing to you to outline the position of the vast majority of our members.
“Secondly, we feel it is vitally important that people make their views known on this matter. The result will impact the development, growth and commitment of inter-county players and inter-county teams for years to come. We thank those county board and provincial council representatives who have expressed their opinions; that includes those who have taken a different view to us. We respectfully call upon those in the highest positions of GAA leadership, to come behind this grassroots, players supported, movement for change. Although late in the day, there remains time for this to happen.
“Thirdly, and this almost seems to have been forgotten in the limited amount of debate to date, we want to thank the GAA’s Fixture Calendar Review Taskforce. This is the GAA committee that spent a significant amount of time, consulting with stakeholders, evaluating numerous proposals, and subsequently formulating two proposed structures that reflect the views of many, and will go before Special Congress on the 23rd of October. We must respect their work. Since putting forward their recommended proposals, they have received little support and have been subjected to some ridicule in the national media. On behalf of inter-county players, we want to acknowledge their work and their willingness to listen to the calls for change to the status quo.”
With that the GPA letter outlines the reasons why Option B is preferred: “The Gaelic Players Association are strongly supporting Motion 19 or what is commonly being referred to as Proposal B, the league-based championship. We believe, if this opportunity is missed on the 23rd of October, we might not be presented with such a positive opportunity for change in the years to come.”
It also outlines in some detail the reasons behind backing Option B, including fairness (all teams will play the same number of games to progress through to the knock-out stages), development (each county will be guaranteed seven championship games at a time of year when most players and teams want to be playing football), and change (The Fixture Calendar Review Taskforce was established by then GAA president John Horan because there was an acknowledgement that change was required.)
It also addressed some of the perceived concerns around Option B, namely the loss of status for the provincial championships and financial projections.
“To us, it makes sense that with significantly more championship games, there will be significantly more money for distribution to counties. Projections developed by Fixture Calendar Review Taskforce member Conor O’Donoghue estimate an additional €10 million revenue through the Proposal B structure, including approximately €2.2 million extra to provinces.
“To those concerned about a downgrading of the provincial championships, we would ask you to consider if this proposal does more damage than the consistent mismatches we have seen in the provincial competition in recent years? We would also ask you to consider how the provincial championships can now be reinvigorated as a stand-alone round robin competition at a time of the year when supporters will have starved of inter-county games for over six months.”
It concludes “ultimately, we are asking you to back Proposal B, the league-based championship.”