Green proposal for football championship reform likely to get green light

Proposal includes round-robin that protects importance of provincial championship

This morning’s Central Council meeting is likely to favour the green proposal for football championship reform. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

This morning’s Central Council meeting is likely to favour the green proposal for football championship reform. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

 

This morning’s Central Council meeting is expected to start the process for a new football championship, which will be introduced in 2023. Before the delegates are two proposals - red and green - to reform the All-Ireland.

Both provide for additional summer matches for counties but the latter retains the central role of the provincial championships in the GAA calendar as opposed to banishing them to the early months of the year and replacing them with the league as foundation of the summer championship.

The green proposal is overwhelmingly favoured to secure the backing for submission to next month’s congress where it is likely to be passed. This morning it’s on the cards that the red alternative will be dropped without discussion.

One well-placed source said, “if it went to congress in the morning, I think it (green) would get 70 per cent.”

Both blueprints include the Tailteann Cup, the new Tier 2 championship that is being introduced this year under the current format.

There are two critical concerns. One is that the previous attempt at round robin matches, the Super 8s, wasn’t a success and secondly, for the Tailteann Cup to succeed, players need to engage with it and experience of Tier 2 competitions hasn’t been positive in that regard.

Hopes are however high that the current proposal can achieve progress on both of those fronts, as the football championship opened up in 2021 and players have been increasingly looking for the realistic competitive context of a graded championship in recent years.

The genesis of both proposals before Central Council is last October’s special congress at which Option B, a league-based championship, got a razor thin majority, well short of the required 60 per cent.

As change was in the air, a task force was dispatched to come up with a version that would prove agreeable to the broadest swathe of GAA opinion. They settled on an idea, originally floated 10 years ago by former association president, Seán Kelly.

That is the green proposal, with its four round-robin All-Ireland groups, based on a combination of final placings in provincial championships and national league.

The 16 counties who don’t make it proceed to the Tailteann Cup, which mirrors the Sam Maguire structure.

The first objective of the task force that produced the proposals was to define what principles should inform their work or what purpose the championship should serve for the best interests of the GAA.

Distilled, those principles were: raising the standard by providing more games at an appropriate level for all teams but especially developing counties; retaining positive aspects of the current system; avoiding dead rubbers, fitting the available footprint; retaining current opportunities to be a winner and give all teams a chance of winning Sam Maguire; be easy to understand and have public acceptance.

That’s a lot of boxes to be ticked but the green proposal appears to have been successful.

One prominent official described it as “reflecting the concerns of special congress by changing the current system for the better".

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