€8m - That’s what top Munster official wants GAA to spend on support for 2000 struggling club players
A radical proposal that the GAA responds to the economic crisis by allocating €8m to a national job support scheme for 2,000 unemployed club players has been put forward by a senior official in the association.
Speaking exclusively to the Irish Independent, Munster Council CEO Pat Fitzgerald said that in the midst of one the most serious employment downturns ever to hit the country, the GAA should make a practical intervention.
He wants €1.6m per annum diverted into a special scheme for the next five years. Employers who hired jobless GAA club players would receive a grant of €4,000 on a one-off basis for a year. It would benefit 400 players per annum, reaching 2,000 up to the end of 2015.
"I wrote in my annual report that we had to do something about the current crisis and this is my suggestion. The situation is getting worse by the week," said Fitzgerald.
"There is a strong feeling out there among rural clubs, in particular, that if they continue to lose players to emigration they will have to either amalgamate or be unable to field teams in some competitions.
"Apart from that, it's terrible to see so many young people, who have so much to give to their clubs and communities, being forced to leave the country. What I'm proposing may be only a small help but better that than nothing at all."
He envisages the cost of the scheme being shared between the four provincial councils and Croke Park.
The money would come from diverting some monies from funds which, up to now, went to clubs for development of their facilities.
That work would continue at a lesser scale in line with the sharply reduced requirements in this area after a protracted period of heavy expenditure on facilities.
"I'm not saying 'get rid of development expenditure', but scale it back to what's appropriate in these changed times. We're at the tail end of the Celtic Tiger in terms of development," he said.
The support scheme would be confined to club players only as Fitzgerald believes the situation is more serious there than at inter-county level.
"We (the GAA) have negotiated a deal (with the GPA) for our inter-county players which I fully support and now we need to look at what's happening to the club players," he said.
"These are tough times for everybody and, as an organisation which has always been deeply rooted in its community, I believe the GAA should make an effort to support its club players in a practical way."
Fitzgerald was speaking on the day the Live Register increased by 1,100 on February to 442,000.