CPA fights 'wrong enemy' over football plan - Burns
The Club Players Association is 'fighting the wrong enemy' and would be better off 'standing up to county managers and the influence they wield on weak county boards', according to Jarlath Burns, chairman of the GAA's Playing Rules Committee.
He is also urging counties to support the three main proposals for change to the All-Ireland SFC format, which will be considered by Congress on Saturday. The CPA has asked over recent weeks for the withdrawal of Central Council proposals for a 'round robin' to replace the All-Ireland quarter-finals, playing extra-time in all drawn championship games except provincial and All-Ireland finals and bringing forward the senior finals to August.
The new players' group, which has had a request to speak at Congress on a motion calling for its official recognition rejected, wants the Central Council proposals 'parked', pending a root-and-branch analysis of all fixtures.
Burns said that while he supported the CPA's basic aims, there was no good reason why the proposed championship changes should not only be discussed by Congress but also supported enthusiastically.
"This business of 'don't put in your proposals but we don't have any just now' doesn't wash with me. I respect what they (CPA) are trying to do for club players but I think they have made a mistake in not coming forward with their own robust proposals, which offer an alternative," said Burns.
He points out that earlier All-Ireland finals and removing the majority of replays would be beneficial to club activity and argues that the 'round robin' would not interfere to any great extent with local programmes.
"I'm a strong advocate of trying out the 'round robin'. There is a need for change but obviously there's limited room, seeing that everyone appears to want the provincials retained and there's not much support for any form of secondary championship.
"The 'round robin' would enhance the All-Ireland series without adding to the amount of time taken to run off the championships. People say the last thing we need is more games - actually what we need are more games within a certain period. Time is the problem, not the number of games," he said.
As for the possibility of 'dead rubbers' in the final series of 'round robin' games, Burns said that the only way of knowing how many would emerge was to experiment for a few years.
"If it's a problem, let's deal with it but we might find it doesn't emerge at all. It's certainly not a good enough reason to reject the proposal."
He backs extra-time in drawn games on the basis that counties would find it easier to run county programmes if they had more certainty with dates.
"Those who say the GAA is only interested in money should look at the proposal. Losing replays means losing revenue, yet Central Council are proposing it.
"It also riles me when I hear people saying Croke Park are doing nothing for clubs. Bringing forward the All-Ireland finals would certainly help clubs, yet when that proposal came before Congress last year, it didn't get enough support from counties. That's why I say the CPA is fighting the wrong enemy. It's counties and not Croke Park who decide club fixtures. The CPA need to take on the boards and get them to take back power from county managers.
"Once the championship starts, the county manager becomes the most important man in the county. If a chairman decides that club fixtures are going ahead while the county is still in the championship, the manager is likely to tell his squad that all their ambitions are being held back by the county board.
"The CPA are picking the wrong target in Páraic Duffy; they should be standing up to county managers and the influence they wield on weak county boards. For now, though, I sincerely hope the three main proposals for the championship are passed on Saturday," said Burns.