The Gaelic Players Association is the GAA's unloved child. It has been accused of being elitist, biased towards Dublin and feathering the nests of a few.
y a strange quirk of fate its harshest critics are ex-GAA players. One could be flippant and suggest they're simply jealous that they missed out on the perks now available to today's stars.
Essentially the GPA is the county players' trade union. It is not the conscience of the GAA; it cannot fix the fixtures issue or solve the imbalance in the country's population.
Judging by the mood of their paid and elected representatives at a zoom press conference on the day of their agm last week, they believe that at best their function is misunderstood and at worst that they've been unfairly pilloried.
What is undeniable, though, is that were it not for a direct subvention from the GAA, their activities would be seriously curtailed. Under the terms of their agreement with Croke Park, they receive 15 per cent of the Association's commercial income each year, or €2.5m, whichever is greater.
Last year, the GAA's commercial activity was lucrative so the GPA's share was €2,970,572. A new agreement is currently being negotiated.
The GPA don't collect a subscription fee directly from their membership of just over 2,000. Instead, a fee of €30 is deducted from the annual government grant paid to inter-county players who automatically become GPA members. These subscriptions amounted to €63,565 last year, which is just one per cent of their total income.
Last year the GPA raised €611,994 through fundraising, although this was insufficient to meet their wage bill (including pension costs) of €742,367.
The wages for four senior executives (the chief executive, chief operating officer, financial controller and players' representative manager) amounted to €449,163 or an average of €112,290. The total bill for the six other employees was €293,204 at an average of €48,867.
According to their annual report, remuneration is set by the Board's Remuneration, People and Change Committee consisting of independent chairman Seán Murphy, Fergus Clancy, Patricia Gordon and Philip Green.
Commercial income realised €911,007 thanks largely to a commercial partnership with the GAA which guarantees the GPA a minimum of €800,000 per annum.
Overall, 81 per cent of the GPA's net revenue was spent directly on player welfare and player development services last year with 1,448 individual players supported.
The GPA ran 19 different programmes for players last year ranging from education and training funding to third level scholarships.
Mayo footballers were by far the biggest recipients with 104 players benefiting - obviously some players participated in multiple programmes. The next highest was Sligo with 64 while Dublin had 42. In hurling, Sligo had the highest number of recipients (52) one more than Tipperary, while Kilkenny had 35.
In terms of third level scholarships, Tipperary footballers topped the list with 12; Mayo had 11 while Kerry and Clare had 10 each.
In hurling, Kilkenny topped the scholarship list with 18; Cork had 17 while Tipperary and Dublin had 13 each.
Covid-19 looks set to scupper the GPA's Super 11s hurling tournament which normally takes place in late autumn in the US.
GPA Chairman Séamus Hickey said they were reviewing the format and structure of the competition due to what they perceived as a disappointing attendance of 10,000 at last year's game in New York.
The GPA's raison d'etre is player representation, player development and player welfare. "This is part of a longer-term view for sustainable amateurism, professional and private lives and playing lives," according to Hickey. The ex-Limerick hurler conceded that the GPA will probably never be universally popular.
"There is nobody universally popular, unfortunately, in the sporting world, in the GAA world, in pop culture, so it comes with the territory of being out there.
"You take opinions as they're generated because it's a free country, so we can only do our best to be consistent and hopefully from that consistency, people will actually pick up the message and see that we're acting accordingly."
Prior to the outbreak of Covid-19, talks on a new commercial deal with the GAA had stalled, but interestingly, chief executive Paul Flynn wants negotiations concluded before the end of John Horan's three-year term as the Association's president in February.
"Well, if I was John Horan I'd like to do a deal for the players before my term is complete," he said. "That's up to himself. I do feel we will make progress on that. Our aim is still to complete that before the end of the year."
Interesting times ahead.
THE GPA'S 2019 BY NUMBERS
€7,574,371\u0009Income for the year
€2,970,572\u0009Share of the GAA’s commercial revenue
€2,604,632\u0009Player development and welfare programmes
€87,674\u0009The GPA’s net surplus for the year
1,448\u0009Individual players supported
81\u0009The percentage of net revenue spent on development and welfare programmes
Sunday Indo Sport