Saturday 23 September 2017

Martin Breheny: CPA is damaging its own cause

Club players' group trying to run before it has learned how to walk

CPA members (l-r) Niall Corcoran, Aaron Kernan, Declan Brennan, Micheál Briody and Kevin Nolan at the organisation’s launch earlier this month. Photo: Sportsfile
CPA members (l-r) Niall Corcoran, Aaron Kernan, Declan Brennan, Micheál Briody and Kevin Nolan at the organisation’s launch earlier this month. Photo: Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

The first rule of getting change is to ask. If that doesn't work, persuasion becomes the next tactic and, if it fails, confrontation moves onto the agenda.

Diplomacy and patience are very important in steps one and two, especially when those seeking change are new to the scene, as is the case with the Club Players' Association (CPA), which is a mere 16 days old.

It got a fair wind after its launch last Monday fortnight, which was always going to be the case since its basic aim is to force a better fixtures programme for club players. Nobody in the GAA could possibly disagree with that admirable ambition or with the claim that many - although not all - club players get a rotten deal.

Dictate

The reasons for that are many and varied, although most come down to poor organisation by county boards. Why clubs, who are in a position to dictate to county boards, haven't sorted it out remains something of a mystery. Still, since the problem has persisted for a long time, it's fair to assume little will change unless the drive comes from elsewhere.

That's why the launch of the CPA was so warmly welcomed by club players everywhere. Nor were there dissenting voices from the GAA's top power-brokers.

Indeed, they probably welcome the initiative, since it strengthens their hand in promoting adjustments which improves the balance between club and county activity.

Páraic Duffy has been a prominent advocate for that over many years, including before taking over as director-general. His proposals haven't always got the required levels of support at Congress or Central Council but he certainly can't be accused of not fighting the club cause.

That's what makes the CPA's intervention this week so ill-advised. In fact, it may have set the organisation back a very long way.

On Monday, the CPA called for three things: Congress to grant them official recognition next month; Duffy to withdraw proposals for change to the concluding stages of the All-Ireland football championship and the establishment of a 'fixtures think tank'.

I held the view all along that it was unlikely the CPA would be granted official recognition as early as next month - now I'm convinced it has absolutely no chance. Groups within any organisation - sporting or otherwise - usually have to wait a lot longer than seven weeks to be officially accepted into the fold. And while the CPA can argue that they are carrying wronged players in their arms, it doesn't mean that everyone thinks a place should be set for them so quickly at the top table.

What if supporters formed an association demanding cheaper admission? What if team managers banded together? What if other interest groups made a case? Would they be entitled to formal representation? Where does it end?

Given the legitimate case the CPA espouse, they would have a much better chance than most of fast-tracking their cause at Congress. However, that was before Monday's call to Duffy to "park his proposals, pending proper consultation".

The statement then went on to outline how it couldn't back Duffy's plan (what about consultation?) while also calling on county boards to vote for their official recognition.

It was megaphone diplomacy at its most damaging when quiet persuasion would be far more effective at this early stage. Also, Duffy doesn't have the power to accede to the CPA's request.

Recognised

While he devised the proposals, they would not be on the Congress agenda without the support of Central Council, in whose name the motion will appear. Only Central Council can withdraw the proposal and how likely is that?

Does the CPA believe that a few weeks after their launch and even before they are officially recognised, Central Council will reach for the black marker and scrap their own Congress motion? Many people have misgivings over the Duffy plan but that's no reason to zap it before Congress gets an opportunity to debate all the points. Ironically, it shares a CPA desire to bring forward the dates of the All-Ireland finals, albeit not by as many weeks, in order to leave more room for club games.

The CPA says that over 15,000 club players have registered for membership so far, which underlines the support the fledgling organisation is gathering.

However, if it's to be really successful, it needs to manage its mandate carefully. This week's stance may be no more than an early outbreak of exuberance, which will calm down as the organisation beds in. However, unfortunately for the CPA, it has probably delayed a process which they insist cannot wait.

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport