Thursday 21 September 2017

Future of player grants in doubt

Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Inter-county hurlers and footballers will receive grants worth between €350 and €730 in the coming days as part of the scheme initiated by the Gaelic Players Association.

The money covers the 2011 season and is performance related, with All-Ireland finalists receiving the higher figure.

But the future of the scheme is "under consideration", with cuts to the Sports Council's budget announced as part of the recent two-day budget package.

The top rate of funding is down some €70 in line with the overall cuts to Sports Council funding announced in last year's scheme.

The payments have been dramatically eroded since the scheme was introduced first at the end of 2008.

Back then, an All-Ireland finalist could expect €2,400 in grants with the lowest payment to an inter-county player €800.

But a 70pc cut in 2009 has left the scheme hanging by a thread ever since. That left the pool available to players reduced by over €2m.

The GPA are adamant that the scheme has to remain in place, as much for the principle as for the money it provides to its members.

"The payments are in the process of going through and will be with players by the end of the year. It's less than last year, down from €800 in line with overall cuts, but we'd still be confident that it will be retained along the same lines that exist now," said GPA spokesman Sean Potts.

"Our position hasn't changed. We feel it is of critical importance that the players are recognised in much the same way as so many professional athletes are," said Potts.

"We'd be confident that we'd have a lot of support from Fine Gael and Labour judging by what they have said in the past.

"The scheme has taken a massive reduction on what was in place before and we'll be campaigning hard for its retention."

There is some speculation that the Irish Sports Council will seek to recalibrate the scheme in some way prior to a final decision on its future being taken.

A parliamentary question regarding the issue was placed by Fine Gael TD and former Mayo manager John O'Mahony, who remains supportive of the scheme, last week.

REDUCTION

Minister of State for Tourism and Sport Michael Ring replied that the grants are to be paid for 2011, "subject to the conditions of the schemes, but the payment will be reduced in line with the overall reduction in the 2011 annual budget of the Irish Sports Council.

The scheme is only four years in existence and was only put in place following intensive lobbying by the GPA from 2004 onwards.

To argue their case the players' body have commissioned a survey that suggests that inter-county players make a €192m contribution to the economy each year through their efforts.

Irish Independent

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