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GAA’s role in expenses row, GPA’s long-term vision and could strike action happen?

1. How likely is strike action?

Gaelic Players Association CEO Tom Parsons.

Source: Ben Whitley/INPHO

ON LAST NIGHT’S Allianz League Sunday programme, Tom Parsons issued the threat of “further action” but stopped short of uttering the word Joanne Cantwell was pushing for.

Strike. 

Given there is a full slate of football and hurling league games scheduled for this weekend, if a strike were to take place it would have major implications. Not least by providing a headache for fixture makers due to the short gap between the league and championship.

However, strike action doesn’t appear to be a realistic prospect. Even if the GPA cannot come to an agreement with the GAA, it’s difficult to see a refusal to play getting full support across county squads.

The issue of unpaid expenses relates to county boards rather than with Croke Park, who pay a percentage of the cost. Many county teams are well looked after, while the GPA do not have the support of all managers.

Galway boss Padraic Joyce, for instance, said he had no intention in backing the protest, remarking on Sunday: ”I’ve no interest in the GPA, never had, it’s beyond my pay grade talking about the GPA so to be honest I don’t know.”

Many county squads merely could be characterised has having a passive membership with the players’ body, so it’s difficult to see how much further the GPA can push this protest. 

An Allianz League promotional event takes place tomorrow with Cathal McShane and Conor Whelan slated to conduct interviews. It remains to be seen if that will go ahead.

The GPA may also consider lesser measures, such as delaying throw-in times for this weekend’s games. Further escalation beyond that could make this a very messy affair. 

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Galway’s Padraic Joyce opted not to join other managers in declining interviews.

Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

2. What is the GAA’s role in this? 

One thing is for certain, the Association do not want this issue dragging on for much longer. Over the weekend the top four football teams in the country faced off in Division 1, yet RTÉ’s highlights programme kicked off with a discussion around this impasse before those ties were shown.

From the GAA’s point of view, the pre-Covid mileage rate of 65c per mile has been restored as of Friday night and any outstanding money is in the process of being paid.

It should have been taken care of earlier and shows a lack of leadership on the GAA’s part, but at least they moved to clear it up eventually. From a promotional point of view, having TV coverage of games without interviews seriously diminishes the product.

You can be sure rights holders RTÉ and TG4, who pay significant money to broadcast games, will be putting pressure on the GAA this week to ensure this is cleared up by the weekend. 

The GAA also stated that the agreed mileage rate only applies for four collective gatherings in a week, with any further sessions to be negotiated directly with county boards.

However this only serves to create a divide between the wealthiest counties and those at the other end of the scale.

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Also, if this is the GAA’s way of capping the number of times teams meet collectively in a given week, putting the players in the middle is the wrong way to go about it. 

A better way would be to bring it to Congress, putting it in rule and punishing teams with the loss of home league games or heavy fines.

Niall Scully and Cormac Costello arrive in Healy Park ahead of the clash with Tyrone.

Source: Evan Treacy/INPHO

3. What is the GPA’s long term vision?

There’s no denying that the GPA’s argument over unpaid expenses is a legitimate one. 

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However, after Parsons’ appearance on the Allianz League Sunday, much of the discourse centred around whether amateur squads should be meeting collectively more than four times per week.

The former Mayo midfielder argued that regardless of how many times a county team trains, players should not be out of pocket for attending. It’s a valid point and few would argue with it. 

Yet on the back of the 2018 ERSI report that highlighted how the GPA’s members are spending up to 31 hours per week on being an inter-county player, and the adverse toll that took on their professional careers, personal lives, sleep and overall mental health, perhaps he was arguing the wrong point. 

The GPA play a major role in creating a sustainable model for the inter-county game.

Their mission statement is to “balance the huge demands placed on players with the opportunities, support and investment required for them to be at their best, on and off the pitch.”

The players’ body can’t lose sight of that long-term vision in this expenses debate.

Arguing that county teams should be financially covered if they have six or seven sessions in a week goes against that ethos, even if it would see players receive expenses for these sessions. Any charter that makes it easier for managers to put more demands on players should be avoided. 

Implementing an NFL-style collective bargaining agreement where managers can only engage in a limited amount of contact hours and training sessions with squads is the way forward. 

Ireland internationals Devin Toner and Lindsay Peat were our guests for The Front Row’s special live event, in partnership with Guinness, this week. The panel chats through Ireland’s championship chances ahead of the final round of Guinness Six Nations matches, and members of the Emerald Warriors – Ireland’s first LGBT+ inclusive rugby team – also join us to talk about breaking down barriers in rugby. Click here to subscribe or listen below:

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