'GAA players are being forced out of the game because of high expenses'
Former Meath footballer Bernard Flynn has renewed his call for a radical review of the expenses incurred by the GAA's inter-county players in the current era.
Flynn believes more and more players will be driven from the game unless they are properly expensed for the money that they lose being part of an inter-county squad.
The two-time All-Star has referenced the actuarial report commissioned by the Gaelic Players Association and presented to the GAA in 2002, which concluded that the average inter-county player lost between €145,000 to €150,000 over the course of a career, as a starting point. He is adamant that the debate which raged for much of the last decade be re-opened and has even suggested players should consider strike action until they get a better deal.
His comments come in a week where Donegal footballer Karl Lacey revealed he was taking step back from employment to concentrate on his inter-county career this summer and a week after Brendan Murphy quit the Carlow squad to go to America for the summer.
"That report is more relevant today than it was 13 years ago because time has moved on and the demands are twice to three times what they were," he said. "It was the first scientific study of its kind to actually prove this. It was proven by the GPA and it was a great piece of work at the time.
"Why has this report not been followed up on and let sit there with nothing being done on it?" he asked.
At the time it was the GPA's platform to begin lobbying the Government for grants for the inter-county body that also provided the framework for the 50-cent-a-mile mileage rate in place today.
Flynn says he has been prompted to raise this issue again by a comment the chairman of the Irish Sports Council Kieran Mulvey made at the recent announcement of the continuation of the €900,000 state-funded expense scheme in place since 2008.
"He said that players 'prepare and train to the highest international standards for team sports and incur significant financial costs in pursuit of their sporting goals'. I thought it was a serious statement. The serious costs they are incurring are recognised by everyone."
Flynn claims the greatest issue relates to students who are largely prevented from holding part-time jobs because of their inter-county commitment and has spoken to a number of them on the issue.
"You are dealing with a different profile of player 15 years ago. A lot of them are trapped. They love what they are doing but you cannot hold down a part-time job and be a student and a serious inter-county footballer with demands being imposed on them. Players have been told to give up jobs," he claimed.
"They need the money but they are seriously out of pocket. The whole dietary thing is massive, laundry, extra gear, extra gym bits that are at home, personal insurance taken out separately. I've seen and watched what they do, players lose out on college places."
Flynn believes the GAA have the means to provide more money to go directly to inter-county players through a range of savings from All-Star tours to Congress, the position of the GAA presidency and even the funding provided by the GAA to the GPA as part of their five-year agreement which is currently being reviewed.
The GPA took a policy decision when they entered a formal agreement to provide a range of services based around personal development designed to assist players during and after their careers.
In that time in the order of 2,000 scholarships have been provided to their members. Only last week they launched a student report entitled 'Never Enough Time' on the issues student footballers face. It is understood that they are in the process of commissioning an updated actuarial report on the cost of being an inter-county player in 2015.
Flynn feels the situation is worsening and says direct expenses would serve the playing body better. "What they're getting for what they give is an insult," he said. "I have not mentioned pay for play and I don't really agree with it. What do you do when it's cost them so much? The food end of it alone, it's cost them two to three times more with the proper food they are meant to eat."