Parsons says GPA recognise need to reform football championship

New CEO says association favours a tiered system and has made its submission to GAA’s strategic review process

New Gaelic Players Association (GPA) CEO Tom Parsons has spoken about the need to restructure the GAA's football championship. He was speaking at Tuesday's briefing on the launch of the organisation's annual report.

Asked how he felt about his county's demolition of Leitrim at the weekend, the former Mayo centrefielder said that the GPA had made its submission on future championships when the Football Calendar Review Task Force had been deliberating.

"I think the Gaelic family is talking a lot about the need to restructure our games and that in every other code there's a tiered system. I think that's one thing and the GPA has certainly fed into the task force and collaborated with the GAA on a tiered approach but to balance that as well, the GAA are undergoing a strategic review and we submitted some of our core pillars.

“One of those is on our policy on competitive balance and uncertainty of outcome in every game and every competition. That’s a piece of work that needs to be aligned with the restructuring of competition. What is the detail of ‘competitive balance and uncertainty of outcome’ and what does it mean?


“That needs to be explored with the GAA and the NGBs to really go into the detail of that. That might be fairness of the distribution of funding or capital spending in intercounty games. It might be a rebalance of resources; can we share and standardise video analysis, coding games, access to GPS and medical provisions?”

Parsons also mentioned the trend towards remote working during the pandemic and how that might help palliate the migration to towns and cities.

"For example, the only counties with a decrease in population in Ireland are Mayo and Donegal but I do believe that Covid will change the way we work as well in terms of working from home and maybe not having to live in the Dublins or the Galways or the Corks or the cities of this world – but that's outside our control."

Also present was Ciarán Barr, the association's CFO, who was acting CEO after the departure of Paul Flynn up until Parsons's appointment. Barr made the point that the two biggest landmarks for the players' body in the past year had been the Covid pandemic, which delayed the season until winter, and the merger with the women's playing organisation (WGPA).

He elaborated on the tiered competitions.

“The players are broadly in favour of that,” said Barr. “You’ve also got to remember that we’re now a male and female organisation. If you look at the female competitions, they are tiered. If you look at hurling, it’s tiered and so football is the odd one out at this stage.”

Detailed submissions

Questioned on why the policy on “competitive balance and uncertainty of outcome” has taken so long to have any effect, Parsons said that other issues in which the GPA had taken an advocacy role, such as the split season, had obscured their efforts and Barr made the point that he believed their championship views had been influential.

"We made detailed submissions to the task force and a lot of that attention ended up being on the split season. But we made a number of submissions on the structure of a new championship, to allow for the Divisions One, Two, Three and Four, to be reflected in the structure. I think the motions that are going to Congress address that but it may be an evolution that they do that first and move to another stage afterwards."

On the impact of Covid on their transatlantic fund-raising ventures, Barr calculated that the cost to the organisation would probably be just under half a million euro but that the amount wasn’t critical in the context of the overall accounts.

“So you are probably looking at net €300,000 or €400,000 in terms of fundraising income that we have. So that is going to be a significant hole in our revenues but if you can go back through our accounts, very roughly around €7 million is what we have as a revenue.

“Three million euro of that is from Government funding and the rest of it then is a combination of the GAA directly, Le Chéile – which is our commercial joint venture with the GAA – and then our fundraising. So it’s a significant part, but it’s not the major part of what we do.”

Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times