The newly-formed Club Players Association have pledged that, “as an Association, if we have to slaughter a few sacred cows along the way, so be it,” in their aim to make the fixture schedule fairer to the vast majority of Gaelic games players.
That comment came from CPA Chairman Miceál Briody from a top table at their launch yesterday in Ballyboden St Enda’s, the current All-Ireland club football champions.
In an emotive address to those present, Briody revealed that since the idea of the Club Players Association was floated, they had been inundated by players, managers, concerned parents, county players and retired players of all ages who expressed their frustration at the way fixtures are managed.
“The overwhelming emotions are frustration, powerlessness, a sense of futility,” Briody continued.
“There is also an overwhelming agreement that something needs to be done to protect and preserve our games before it is too late.”
While promising to eliminate the practice of playing club championship matches on consecutive days or the prevailing situation where clubs can go for up to four months between championship matches, Briody cut to the point: “Everyone knows what the problems are.
“Everyone knows there are elephants in the room, television deals, paid officials, paid managers and at the centre of it all are amateur players at the beck and call of others, unable to plan a holiday or relax in the closed season.”
The main speaker was Monaghan man Declan Brennan – CPA secretary – backed up by Wexford’s 1996 All-Ireland hurling winning manager Liam Griffin, Dublin’s Kevin Nolan, Derek Kavanagh of Cork, Anthony Moyles of Meath and Roscommon cult hero Shane Curran.
Their reasons for banding together are numerous and were crystalised by Brennan when he was asked if the aims of the CPA would include cutting back on some competitions, presumably the January competitions such as the Dr McKenna Cup for a start.
“We’re looking at bringing the All-Irelands way back and we’re looking for Croke Park to assess with us what we’re putting on the table, to move the thing forward,” the former Clontibret manager said.
“There’s 2,319 clubs that have to wait on 32 counties. Our thinking now today is that the 32 counties must wait on the 2,319 clubs. That’s the framework we’re going for. So everything is on the table.”
As for how far the All-Ireland finals would be moved, Brennan stated that from his personal point of view, “at least August Bank Holiday weekend”.
A motion from Wexford is going to GAA Congress next month, seeking that the CPA be officially recognised as the representative body for the GAA club player, thereby giving them a place in the democratic process.
The last time there was a launch of a players’ group traces back to the Wellington Park Hotel in Belfast, when a group of mainly inter-county footballers gathered together for an embryonic meeting of what was to become the Gaelic Players Association in September 1999.
While their path was not smooth, they had a number of tactical ploys that they used to highlight their plight, including delaying throw-ins.
Brennan made clear that the CPA would not be pursuing any sort of radical or “nuclear” options in their efforts to have their voice heard.
“We would rather see a situation going forward that we have a 100 day plan. We want to do something like a company would do, turn it around in 100 days,” he said.
“We have to first of all be a key stakeholder in the talks, get our amendment passed at Congress.”
Brennan has insisted that the CPA will be strictly voluntary and not evolve, as the GPA has, with a full-time paid staff, while he said he felt that the GPA has not been good for the Association as a whole.
“Number one is, the GPA, what is it doing for the GAA in general? No, (it’s a) disaster. It’s crushed at the minute, it’s suffocated. We are not getting the best out of our Association,” he said.
“What have they done for the county player? They have made their life a lot easier and they deserve everything they get.”
He continued: “We will talk to everybody. We have no problem.
“The difference is, there is not one person here is employed or will be employed going forward.”
He added: “There will be no jobs for the boys.
“There will be no salaries. We just want to do a job, to fix the fixtures.”
Last August, the GAA Director-General Paraic Duffy revealed his blueprint for a football championship reform that abolished replays in certain situations and tightened up the calendar, while also introducing group stages at the quarter-finals.
Brennan declined giving that plan his approval.
He said: “We don’t think it goes far enough and we really, really think there needs to be radical changes.
“But at the end of the day there’s a lot of monetary interests here and they’re trying to create a buzz around the August weekend to bring in money for the Association.”
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