Five-year agreement confirmed as players and GAA bury hatchet
GPA land €8.75m deal
They've come a long way from the morning in August 2000 when 10 of the GAA's highest-profile players linked arms and walked across Dublin's Harcourt Street to promote a deal with the Marlborough recruitment agency, which contravened the association's rules on endorsements at the time.
The agreement, reputedly worth €5,000 a man, subsequently collapsed when the recruitment company ran into difficulties, but at the time it was viewed as a serious challenge to the GAA's rules.
However, in the comfort of the GAA's management committee meeting room on level five of Croke Park's Hogan Stand yesterday, there was nothing but bonhomie between all as details of the five-year agreement between the GPA and the Association were revealed.
The basic details of the deal have been known since an interim agreement was reached in December 2009, some seven months after Christy Cooney became GAA president and after the aggravation of the players withdrawing their co-operation with partnership sponsors and broadcasters on the weekend of the Leinster football and Munster hurling finals that year.
Yesterday, the flesh on the bones of that agreement were unveiled -- an agreement that will cover the next five years and see the GAA bankroll the players' body to the tune of €8.75m, an average of €1.75m per year.
That's a significant increase on the €1.35m the two associations agreed in December 2009 and it will see the annual contributions increase incrementally by €125,000 annually from €1.5m this year.
Strict governance of the agreement will be applied, particularly in relation to funding.
The GPA will have to submit quarterly funding reports to the GAA and must formally present a set of accounts annually. And, if the GAA desires financial information on a monthly basis, that also must be provided.
The agreement, which was due at the end of last October, was reached over the last 12 months by a negotiating team from each side.
High-profile PR consultant Fintan Drury provided advice to the GPA team, which also included its chief executive Dessie Farrell and chairman Donal Og Cusack.
The GAA were represented by Cooney, director-general Paraic Duffy, operations manager with responsibility for player welfare Fergal McGill and Liam Keane, the former Disputes Resolution Authority secretary who is chairman of the Central Hearings Committee (CHC). He was also one of the three-man committee in Meath that proposed Seamus McEnaney as the county's football manager.
Farrell insisted that the independence of the GPA has not been compromised by the agreement despite the strict governance protocols.
"I don't think it would serve the players or the association well if it was compromised," he said, before confirming that "for the time being" they would remain in their offices in Drumcondra.
Cooney said the GAA were satisfied with the deal and, despite the rise in contributions, he expects it to be approved at next month's Central Council meeting.
"If you take it that there are 2,000 inter-county players and take the €2m figure in 2015, that's €1,000 per player annually. That's not massive or outlandish," said Cooney.
Base funding from the GAA will provide the majority of funding for the development of the GPA and the services it will continue to provide for inter-county players -- services that range from career advice, skills training, a business development scheme, managing finances and taxes and personal counselling.
A past players' advisory group has also been set up under the chairmanship of former Dublin captain Tony Hanahoe. Meath's Bernard Flynn is secretary.
Written into the agreement, formally known as the 'Recognition Protocol', is an understanding that GPA funding could be reduced if GAA's revenues dip.
It is hoped that commercial funding may also play a bigger part in funding the deal over the years, with a number of joint ventures planned.
Existing GPA commercial agreements will be given time to wind down -- the Energise deal, for instance, runs until May 2013.
Other minor commercial activities agreed, such as website advertising, won't need formal approval by the joint GAA/GPA committee that will remain in place.
New commercial activities that don't conflict with existing GAA sponsorships will be pursued, with a third party to be assigned to help source that activity.
A new computer game is among the ventures likely to be considered. There was conflict over this in the middle of the last decade when the GAA's attempts to launch a game with Sony were thwarted by the players' refusal to allow their names to be used.
It is expected that the Vodafone GAA All Star awards and the Opel GPA team awards will remain in place for this year, with the possibility of these being merged after that.
The Recognition Protocol includes a section on the resolution of disputes -- both in the working of the agreement and, more significantly, for disputes between players and their county board.