Thursday 14 December 2017

Croke Park to move on €8m jobs plan

Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

A proposal that the GAA allocates €8m towards a job support scheme for unemployed club players is to be discussed at the highest level of the association later this month.

It will be on the agenda at the next Management Committee meeting, where the details will be considered, prior to taking a decision on whether it is practical.

The initiative is the brainchild of Munster Council CEO Pat Fitzgerald, who wants the association to intervene at a time when clubs are losing players to emigration due to the economic downturn.

His plan involves the GAA making €1.6m available for each of the next five years as an enticement to businesses to take on unemployed club players. Employers would receive a one-off grant of €4,000 per recruit as a wage subsidy.

Fitzgerald believes that there are extensive GAA interests involved in companies, who would see the merit of recruiting a club player if the cost was reduced by €4,000. Initial soundings, taken by Fitzgerald among businesses prior to announcing details of the scheme, were well received.

If taken up, it would be a major boost to 400 players in the first year, increasing to 2,000 over the lifespan of the scheme. The plan envisages Central Council paying €4m, with the remaining €4m coming from the four provincial councils.

Fitzgerald contends that the situation is becoming increasingly serious for clubs as they lose players to emigration and believes that if the drain continues many rural units will be left with no option but to amalgamate.

It now remains to be seen how Croke Park's power brokers react to the plan, especially at a time when income -- nationally and locally -- is decreasing.

However, Fitzgerald believes that the funding can be found by diverting funds from building projects. A huge amount of development work was undertaken over the last decade but, with many projects completed, the need for further facilities has decreased.

Fitzgerald contends that the emphasis over the next five years should be on helping players rather than building. His scheme is designed for club players only.

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