Tuesday 17 October 2017

Gooch warns over GAA wanting 'best of both worlds'

Players’ body has to retain ‘nuclear threat’ of strike, insists Kerry star

Colm Cooper feels the preparation of inter-county teams is getting out of control Photo: Sportsfile
Colm Cooper feels the preparation of inter-county teams is getting out of control Photo: Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

The GAA are sitting on a "ticking time bomb" as commercial revenues continue to grow within a framework where players remain amateur, retired Kerry legend Colm Cooper has warned in his autobiography.

The book 'Gooch - The Autobiography' goes on sale this week and the five-time All-Ireland medal winner pulls no punches in his overview of the colliding worlds within the GAA.

He also believes that the Gaelic Players Association have no clear vision of their future, pointing to their embedded status within the GAA and suggesting a players' body should retain a "nuclear threat of members withdrawing their services" if they aren't satisfied.

Splinter

In time, Cooper says he would not be surprised to see a splinter players' group break away that retains more independence to use that option.

"It seems to me that the body that should be directing a vision of the future, the Gaelic Players Association can't now do that because they are effectively in bed with the GAA.

"I remember having a long chat about this with Tommy Walsh when he finally came home from Australia. He was saying that in the AFL the players' body is at the league's throat the whole time. That sounds like a more natural relationship for a union to have with a governing body.

"They should have that nuclear threat of members withdrawing their services if they aren't satisfied," he writes.

"The GPA are nowhere near that headspace. The structured payment system they have agreed just reflects a culture of appeasement. I wouldn't be astonished to see a day down the line when a separate body might be set up to represent county players."

In 2016, the GAA signed up to a €6.9m agreement with the GPA on behalf of players which catered, among other things, for enhanced travel and nutrition expenses.

The eight-time All-Star will be the first former inter-county player to have a testimonial dinner, part of the proceeds of which will go to charity, later this month in Dublin, a decision that had drawn criticism and an unease within some GAA circles.

In that context, Cooper's opinions in his autobiography are even more interesting as the demands on players continue to increase.

He feels preparation of inter-county teams is getting out of control and points to the figures that Kerry spent in 2016 (approximately €1m on all inter-county teams) to play just four senior football championship matches.

"Some day soon I can see players deciding that enough is enough. And they might have to do that with or without the GPA," he writes.

"There is something perverse about the concept of amateurism within the GAA as it stands. In my opinion, the Association is just giving token things away. Trying to keep a lid on it. Hoping that everybody will just stay quiet. Yet millions and millions just keep rolling in and, more and more, the squeeze is on the players," he suggests. "I say that as someone who was privileged. But I'll be a volunteer when I am finished playing. I don't quite know what the GPA's long-term ambition is. I'm not sure what it is they want. What would they consider success, five years from now? I don't know. I'm not sure they know either."

Cooper, who retired from inter-county football after his club Dr Crokes' All-Ireland club success in March, writes that the GAA "want the best of both worlds".

"Personally, I think the GAA has been clever in keeping professionalism at arm's length for so long. They understand that changing the ethos of the game could be hugely dangerous. But what's happening at the moment might, in the long term, prove just as big a threat.

"Because the way things are going, it's inevitable there'll be an even bigger divide. The weaker ones will slip further down. And you can watch virtually everything live on TV. That's the trouble. The GAA want the best of both worlds. They want the TV money and they want the gate receipts.

"I'm not sure they realise it but that, to me, is a ticking time bomb."

Irish Independent

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