GPA vow to resist grant cut
THE GPA last night launched a rigorous campaign to protect the remaining Government grants package for inter-county players.
The GPA's head of communications Seán Potts said his organisation understood that the country was struggling, but warned that inter-county players would not be held as scapegoats.
"We're very strong on this," he said. "After just year one, the grants were hit by 70 per cent and players were left with little or nothing. All of our members and players are very happy to be amateurs, everyone agrees on that, but we simply won't stand for discrimination just because of that status. The Government has to be seen to help us now. Our commissioned report shows what the players and the GAA are doing for the Irish economy. The fact that €192m per annum is generated by the GAA and its players surely cannot be ignored.
"If all sports are cut their allowances, then I don't know if we can do anything but if only certain sports are targeted, people need to realise that we've already taken our medicine and we shouldn't have to take any more. Two years ago, an All-Ireland medal winner would receive €2,400 through this grant. That's now down to €800. Those at the lower end of the scale only get €400. We've already suffered. If people think they are going to slash and burn their way through this allocation without us protecting the players, they are wrong."
The GPA drive to maintain the player allowance is specifically based around a commissioned Indecon report which reveals that GAA players and inter-county fixtures contribute €192m per annum to the Irish economy.
In 2008, then Sports Minister Seamus Brennan introduced an historic grants package worth €3.5m to GAA players. The scheme was initially set up for three years but in 2009 Brennan's replacement Martin Cullen cut that figure to €1.5m. With the fiscal climate deteriorating even further this year, those grants are now in danger of being abolished altogether by new minister Mary Hanafin.
In the past, GPA members spoke about strike action if the grant was not forthcoming or subsequently scrapped, but this tactic is off the table now due to the GPA's recently forged alliance with Croke Park. The prospect of some protest occurring, however, should not be ruled out.
"We've really close links with Croke Park now and if the worst happened and the grant totally disappeared, a joint review with the GAA would have to be held to analyse the situation," Potts added. "But at the moment, the GPA executive has to do all it can to protect what's left. We can't just let the scheme go into the wilderness.
"We felt we had to commission this report. We are trying to look after our own patch," Potts added. "We are proud of our amateur status but guys do need these grants, even if they have been slashed. They are still a sign of appreciation as much as anything, not just a token pat on the head."