Tuesday 28 February 2017

GAA rewind to look at replays

Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

It's back to the future as the GAA prepares to restore replays to all rounds of the senior provincial championships.

This year's series will almost certainly be the last where extra-time applies to early round games which finish level.

Introduced in 2009 with the intention of freeing up extra dates for club activity, the policy of playing extra-time in provincial championship games up to -- and including -- the quarter-finals has come under increasing pressure amid claims that it made no difference to local fixtures while resulting in a serious revenue hit.

Leinster suffered a gross loss of around €675,000 last year when two quarter-finals were decided in extra-time rather than going to replays. The Meath-Laois and Dublin-Wexford (SF) double-header and Antrim v Offaly (SH) all finished level, with the latter two decided in extra-time.

It took a replay, which yielded €132,000, to settle Meath v Laois. That reduced the overall gate loss which otherwise would have reached over €800,000.

Receipts at the drawn football double header totalled over €791,000 and would have been replicated in a replay, as would the €14,000 income from an Antrim-Offaly hurling replay.

motion

A Wexford motion will come before Congress in Mullingar next month, calling for a return to the original system where all senior provincial championship games which finish level in normal time go to a replay.

Wexford's Sheamus Howlin, used his departing speech as Leinster Council chairman last Saturday to urge counties to support his county's call.

"The 'no replay' aim was to allow our Association to play more club games, but the change did not result in one extra game being played in any of the participating counties. Is the rule achieving what it set out to achieve? I believe it's not," said Howlin.

"In hard times, our clubs and counties could do with extra revenue (from replays) and also there's the excitement and drama factor of additional fixtures in Croke Park on a Saturday evening in June. It's time to look at this again because, as things stand, we're getting the worst of both worlds -- reduced income and no extra club fixtures. That doesn't make sense.".

There's support for a return to replays in the other provinces too. Pat Fitzgerald, Munster Council CEO, said the new approach had done nothing to improve the club fixtures' scene while robbing the GAA of valuable promotional and revenue benefits.

"Take the example of Tipperary and Cork who meet in the first round of this year's Munster hurling championship. It's always a huge event but, with Tipperary being All-Ireland champions, it will be even more attractive this time. If it finishes level in normal time it goes to extra-time rather than a replay," he said.

"Think of the loss that would be to the promotion of hurling. We want to use everything we can to sell our games, yet we'll be trying to settle a big event like Tipperary against Cork in extra-time if they draw. That doesn't make sense. There's the revenue element too. Our policy in Munster is very simple -- if we take the money in, we give back out to the counties and clubs so everybody benefits. We've shown that over the last few years when we had replays in Munster semi-finals and finals."

Danny Murphy, Ulster Council PRO, said the decision to play extra-time in early round games was well-intentioned, but hadn't worked out in terms of increasing club activity.

His Connacht counterpart, John Prenty, spoke against a return to 'replays all the way' at last year's Congress, but concedes since the new system hasn't had the desired effect, his attitude has changed somewhat.

"Counties aren't using the extra dates to play club games. It's unfortunate, but that's the situation and has to be taken into account," he said.

With so much support for change coming from senior provincial officials, it seems highly likely Congress will pass the Wexford motion. The loss of revenue caused by the reduction in replays will be a major factor in the deliberations.

However, if the motion is passed it won't come into effect until 2012.

Irish Independent

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