Monday 16 September 2019

Donnchadh Boyle: 'CPA come out swinging but taking the nuclear option is in no one's best interests'


GAA president John Horan. Photo: Sportsfile
GAA president John Horan. Photo: Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

At Tuesday's rules briefing and launch of the 2019 Master fixtures list, GAA president John Horan was asked two questions at the top table surrounding whether he'd meet with the GPA to discuss the introduction of the new playing rules after their CEO Paul Flynn has asked for an "urgent" sit-down.

Horan indicated that he'd agreed to meet. The pair met yesterday but in granting Flynn's request so quickly and so publicly, it was striking how far the GPA had come in terms of its relationship with the GAA. Right now, it seems like the other players' body within the GAA, the CPA, are a long way off having such a relationship.

The GPA's progress has been remarkable. It's still less than a decade since they were rabble-rousing in the name of official recognition. Perhaps symbolically the GPA's press conferences were regularly held in the Croke Park Hotel on the steps of GAA HQ. They were making enough noise enough of the time that no one in Croke Park could be under the illusion that they were going to go away. They also threatened strike action when they voted overwhelmingly in favour of withdrawing from games in late 2007.

That never came to pass but from the formation of the association in Belfast in late 1999, it took almost 20 years for the GPA to be officially recognised as the inter-county player representative body. Since then, players, between government grants, increased mileage, nutrition allowance and a range of scholarship and personal development schemes, enjoy a better deal than ever. But there was plenty of pain before the gain.

The CPA look set for a similar route. In their missive released to the media on Tuesday, they took aim at the GAA's top brass. After the defeat of the Roscommon-sponsored proposal for a "clean slate" in terms of fixtures, they launched a blistering attack, insisting Central Council's vote was a sign that "those who lead the organisation have lost touch with the Association's grassroots".

The GAA were slow to comment but are known to be shocked by the tone of the release. The CPA are clearly frustrated. With what they believe to be a significant mandate from a membership of around 25,000, they have made little headway since their inception last year. The seemingly straightforward motion surrounding transparency in the voting system in Congress was shot down last February, while their bid for official recognition didn't even make it to the floor.

It felt very much like the decision-makers in the GAA didn't like the idea of being told how to do their business and were making a point. Last weekend the CPA made no headway once more, though it's thought their cause wasn't helped by an email sent in error by the CPA to delegates that was less than complimentary of a high-ranking GAA official.

Nonetheless, they still hold concerns over whether counties had enough time to discuss the various motions that were up for discussion, especially considering the significance of some of the motions including the possibility of a Tier 2 competition. The CPA insist that in their dealing with counties it emerged that very few had brought the matter forward for discussion.

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Their feeling is that they are being ignored and there was no toning down of the rhetoric yesterday on social media. The trenches have been dug and both sides are unlikely to budge, which begs the question: where do both sides go from here?

Back in April, the CPA ran a member survey asking that having "tested the systems of GAA democracy over the past 18 months culminating with our transparency motion at Congress" were they "satisfied with the continuation of this process or is it time to escalate the situation?"

Around two-thirds of the close to 4,000 respondents were open to the idea of 'escalation'. That would appear to leave the possibility of strike action open to the CPA. It's what the GPA once threatened before calling it off, but the nuclear option is in no one's best interests.

Irish Independent

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