Club players group would be 'astonished' by Congress snub
Chairman expects CPA to be formally recognised in two weeks' time
Having seen its membership soar to 20,000 in a month and with plans to sign up thousands more in the coming weeks and months, the Club Players' Association (CPA) has a direct message for delegates attending the GAA's annual Congress in Croke Park on February 24/25.
Grant us official recognition as the representative body for club players - that's the call as it attempts to build further momentum in pursuit of the 'fix the fixtures' objective.
It's debatable whether Congress will agree to the CPA's demand for equal status with the Gaelic Players Association (GPA), which caters for the inter-county scene. The GPA had to wait more than 10 years after its launch for official recognition but CPA chairman Micheál Briody believes there is no logical reason why the club players' body should not be admitted quickly.
"There's a rule in place stating that the GPA is recognised as the official representative body for inter-county players - all we're asking is that we be added to the rule as the representatives for club players. The GPA represents two per cent of all players and does a brilliant job. We represent the other 98 per cent so why not recognise us too?" he said.
"It's a small change and we would be very surprised if it doesn't go through. In fact, we would be astonished as we now represent 20,000 players and increasing all the time. The CPA may only be around for four or five weeks but club players have been there since 1884 and deserved to be represented," said Briody, who is a member of the St Brigid's club in Meath.
The CPA has written to every county board asking them to support Wexford and Tipperary, who will table motions at Congress calling for the fledgling organisation to be recognised.
The letter also states that the CPA wants to work with county boards to deal with issues which are impacting negatively on club players. It notes that there is limited leeway for running local programmes because of dates and competitions in the provincial, All-Ireland and third-level college sphere over which county boards have no control.
"Recent press coverage interpreted our views in different ways. Without going over the issues here, we believe it is in the interests of all clubs and counties to pause and reflect," states the letter.
Briody said yesterday that the early response to the launch of the CPA was very encouraging, underlining the need for its presence in the GAA at a time when club players are treated poorly by the fixtures' structures.
"The more we talk to people around the country, the more convinced we are that launching the CPA was the right thing to do. 'Fix the fixtures' was our motto from the start and now we're finding out just how bad the situation really is.
"It's not a new problem but there's no doubt it has got worse over the last ten years. We need to tackle it now and not in a few years' time. That's why we're asking that the proposals coming to Congress to have a 'round robin' replace the football quarter-finals be parked for now," he said.
Instead, the CPA want a fixtures think-tank, comprised of stakeholders at all levels, to draw up a brand new blueprint. Briody believes that it could be completed in three to six months, followed by a Special Congress to consider its recommendations.
"Some people might say that's a radical approach but what's happening now is radical too but in the wrong way.
"The number of players dropping out of football and hurling at club level is alarming. It's becoming very difficult to sell the games to young players due to the difficulties with the fixtures schedules."
He said the CPA has no pre-conceived ideas as how the overall fixtures grid should be structured but insists that a much better deal for club players has to be one of the key cornerstones.
"The problem has evolved through no one's fault. This is not a blame game. It's the recognition of a bad situation that everyone knows exists. So if we're addressing fixtures, why not address them all together, rather than making some changes to the football championships and changing All-Ireland final dates?" said Briody.
While anxious to be officially recognised, the CPA will continue on its crusade even if Congress rejects the Tipperary/Wexford motions.
"We would be surprised and disappointed if the motions are beaten and we'd have to look into the reason why but it wouldn't change our outlook. We're here for a reason that won't change, whatever happens at Congress," added Briody.
The CPA has widened its network over recent weeks as regional and county co-ordinators and club representatives spread the message.
Aaron Kernan (Armagh), Derek Kavanagh (Cork), Kevin Nolan (Dublin), Liam Griffin (Wexford), Anthony Moyles (Meath) and Shane Curran (Roscommon) are among the high-profile former players/managers on the executive. Membership is free and, according to Briody, will remain so.
"People have said we should have charged a nominal fee - maybe €5 - but this is not about money.
"Those of us who are actively involved are doing it for nothing more than the good of the GAA and its clubs.
"If we all don't recognise what's happening and do something about it, the GAA is going to look very different in five or ten years' time. And it won't be for the better," he added.