Recession bites hard as Farrell reports swell in players seeking GPA assistance
ALMOST 250 inter-county hurlers and footballers have sought assistance from the GPA so far in 2010, a report released by the players' body revealed yesterday.
A review of the welfare services provided by the GPA since they signed an interim agreement worth €1.35m with the GAA last year showed the body assisted 233 players across the sectors of education, careers and health and wellbeing, while another 327 players were handed scholarships.
"We have seen a good uptake in the services offered, particularly in the last four weeks as word of mouth spreads across the playing community," said GPA CEO Dessie Farrell.
"We also wanted to release these figures to show our members and critics alike what we have been doing since the agreement and what is available to players."
Overall, it will cost €2.2m to run the GPA for 2010 and that figure could double by 2013 as they look to roll out more extensive services.
"That's ambitious alright," Farrell admitted. "But we want to aim to provide the best services possible to our players.
"We'll be looking to tap into other revenue streams to help us do this and we're talking to the GAA, but we've set the bar high for ourselves and that's where we want to get to."
Farrell identified employment as the biggest issue confronting the playing body in the next 12 months, with a recent survey showing that 15pc of their membership (circa 300) are unemployed.
"Players are no different from the general population in that respect," he said.
However, he insisted that the amateur ethos of the GAA was best protected through a combination of 'world class' welfare services and the continuation of the Government grants scheme.
"Between the Government grants scheme and the welfare services we provide, we have a very enviable model compared to many professional sports," he said.
"A lot of professional athletes in Europe operate either just above or on the bread-line and they are more and more often running into problems surrounding unpaid wages and clubs collapsing."
The GPA have commissioned a report into the value of inter-county games to the exchequer and will issue its findings in the coming weeks in a bid to retain the Government payments ahead of what is expected to be the most savage budget in a generation.
"We've had meetings with the Government regarding the grants scheme," Farrell added. "We're in line for a pretty hard budget and we're aware of that, but we're still confident that the scheme will remain in place."