Cooper: GPA should have kept 'nuclear threat' of strike action

Colm Cooper believes the Gaelic Players Association (GPA) has sold its raison d'etre to the GAA and no longer retains the "nuclear threat" of its members striking if they aren't satisfied with how they're being treated by the GAA.

Writing in his autobiography 'Gooch' which goes on sale this week, Cooper questions the vision of the GPA, an organisation he says he never had "any big dealings with". The five-time All-Ireland medal winner says the GPA has become too embedded with the GAA and therefore has diluted its capacity to act effectively on behalf of its members, and he says he can see the day when a splinter group breaks away from the GPA to maintain greater autonomy.

"It seems to me that the body that should be directing a vision of the future, the Gaelic Players Association, can't now do that because they are effectively in bed with the GAA. I remember having a long chat about this with Tommy Walsh when he finally came home from Australia. He was saying that in the AFL the players' body is at the league's throat the whole time. That sounds like a more natural relationship for a union to have with a governing body. They should have that nuclear threat of members withdrawing their services if they aren't satisfied. The GPA are nowhere near that headspace. The structured payment system they have agreed just reflects a culture of appeasement. I wouldn't be astonished to see a day down the line when a separate body might be set up to represent county players."

In the week that Cooper launches his book, and three weeks before his testimonial dinner, which has drawn criticism from some quarters, Cooper also warns that the GAA's increasing commercial activities is on a collision course with players who remain as amateurs and who cannot profit financially from playing football and hurling.

"Some day soon I can see players deciding that enough is enough. And they might have to do that with or without the GPA," Cooper writes. "There is something perverse about the concept of amateurism within the GAA as it stands. In my opinion, the Association is just giving token things away. Trying to keep a lid on it. Hoping that everybody will just stay quiet. Yet millions and millions just keep rolling in and, more and more, the squeeze is on the players. I say that as someone who was privileged. But I'll be a volunteer when I am finished playing.

"I don't quite know what the GPA's long-term ambition is. I'm not sure what it is they want. What would they consider success, five years from now? I don't know. I'm not sure they know either. Personally, I think the GAA has been clever in keeping professionalism at arm's length for so long. They understand that changing the ethos of the game could be hugely dangerous.

"But what's happening at the moment might, in the long term, prove just as big a threat. Because the way things are going, it's inevitable there'll be an even bigger divide. The weaker ones will slip further down. And you can watch virtually everything live on TV. That's the trouble. The GAA want the best of both worlds. They want the TV money and they want the gate receipts. "I'm not sure they realise it but that, to me, is a ticking time bomb."

Kerryman

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