Latest GAA/GPA deal has hidden cost of €750,000
Provision of extra gear a burden counties didn't bank on
The headline figure for the latest agreement between the GAA and the Gaelic Players Association, unveiled last July, said €6.2million.
Additional mileage, up from 50 cent per mile to 65 cent, a nutrition allowance worth €20 per week, €3.3m to the GPA itself incorporating a new 15 per cent claim on the GAA's commercial figure, were some of the stand-out features of the new deal, on top of the GPA being facilitated with a Congress motion and an additional delegate at Congress.
But some of the small print that lay beneath those headings has only become apparent recently as county boards were finalising charter agreements with players. It's adding up to much more than the stated figure with counties counting the cost of providing additional gear that is estimated to be jumping, on average, from €600 per year to €1,000 per player, a leap of 66 per cent in the year.
It was referenced from the floor of Congress by Donegal chairman Sean Dunnion last Friday night when he suggested a greater burden would be placed on counties that wasn't apparent at the outset.
That burden could leave counties collectively picking up a bill of at least €750,000 if downward pressure is not applied in terms of compromise. That increase was not part of the original €6.2m that was costed for the recognition protocol.
The Irish Independent has been in contact with a number of counties who are all factoring in sharp rises in the cost of preparing their inter-county squads because of this additional gear requirement.
One county estimated their cost for gear would be €800 per player before three items of footwear (boots/runners), worth not less than €125 per item, are factored in.
If counties reach All-Ireland quarter-finals, the footwear bill can potentially rise to €500 per player though sponsorship deals normally cut in at that stage.
Another contacted put the overall increase at a "conservative" €25,000 for the year, if all items are to be honoured in the agreement for both football and hurling teams.
The section of the new agreement - in which current GPA chief executive Dermot Earley played a leading role in the negotiations - that relates to the provision of gear caters for 'pre-season' for the first time and with such enlarged squads at that time of year, this is where the biggest rise in cost lies for counties.
Essentially, items of gear are provided to all inter-county footballers and hurlers operating at Liam MacCarthy and Christy Ring Cup level in three different tranches.
Pre-season supplies gear for all squad members from the commencement of training until February 1. It allows for two pairs of training socks, two pairs of training shorts, two pairs of gym shorts, three training T-shirts, one training wet suit top and bottoms for each player.
An option whereby counties can supply generic training gear for pre-season, which is handed out and returned before and after training, is also available but is much less likely to be used.
Previous to the last agreement there was no distinction between pre-season and league panels. Some pre-season panels can stretch to over 40 and there is a requirement to treat each member equally.
League panellists - operating between February 1 and May 1 - will be provided with the biggest tranche, with entitlement to a training top, shorts and socks, a wet top, a windcheater, wet bottoms, a T-shirt or polo shirt, skinny pants or tracksuit bottoms and jacket or gilet.
For championship, there is an obligation to supply an extra training top, shorts and socks and travel shorts.
Counties operating in the Nicky Rackard and Lory Meagher Cups had no official provision for gear in the previous agreement but now are entitled to a training top, shorts, socks, a half-zip top, a wet suit and a windcheater, in addition to two items of footwear to the value of €250 each.
The provision of training gear remains separate to match-day gear. Counties also have an obligation to provide every player with a kit bag and each goalkeeper on a squad to have two pairs of gloves, worth €80 each.
The GAA's Management Committee acknowledged at Congress that some difficulties had arisen in relation to this part of the agreement and there is hope in the counties that extra funding will be provided to meet with the demands.
Compromise with players in some counties may also be reached and there is provision in the agreement for items like wet gear and jackets can carry over into a second year for players if there hasn't been a change of sponsor.
Croke Park has already agreed to pay the extra mileage over the outgoing 50 cent per mile which counties were obliged to pay. The GAA at central level is also picking up the tab for the new nutrition allowance.
One point of conflict has been the non-payment of mileage to players who've the use of company cars. Those who must pay their own fuel for a company car get 10 cent per mile with maintenance bringing that allowance to 20 cent.
Players can claim mileage for trips to training venues for pre-approved gym sessions and pre-approved medical appointments. Enhanced benefits relating to tickets will see 105 League passes distributed among squads, up from 60 with an extra 20 tickets for each squad for provincial championship matches/qualifiers bringing the total to 200.
For provincial finalists, the total number of tickets available to a playing squad involved will be 200, up from 120. But provision of tickets for the All-Ireland semi-finals and final remains the same.
The official cost of preparing inter-county teams in 2016 came to €23.3m but that looks set to rise substantially again on the back of this agreement. But the balance of that it is the revenue generated by the inter-county game with commercial revenue yielding €19m and €30m taken in at the turnstiles in 2016.