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Fixtures mess damaging players’ lives

GAA players are faced with a fixtures schedule that is damaging their quality of life -- and leaving them disillusioned with their involvement in the sports they love and adorn.

In a blunt assessment, a high-powered GAA committee admits that the problem is particularly acute at club level and warns it cannot be allowed to continue.

"There is now strong evidence to suggest that fixture planning is having a very negative effect on players' lives, especially at club level. It's not sustainable if the Association wishes to grow. There is a lot of dissatisfaction and frustration with club fixtures and, judging by the comments made, it borders on disillusionment," notes a report from the National Fixtures Planning Committee (NFPC).

Chaired by John Greene (Longford), the committee -- helped by the GPA -- surveyed inter-county players from all over the country and Britain last December and January as part of their on-going attempts to streamline the schedules at local and national level.

A total of 206 players responded and while they expressed satisfaction with some aspects of the competitions programme, the findings indicate huge disillusionment in the controversial club-versus-county area.

Over two-thirds of the respondents believe that the schedules strike a wrong balance between club and inter-county activity -- while only one-fifth were satisfied (the rest expressed no opinion). Half felt pressurised to choose between club and county and complained club games were fixed too close to inter-county games.

More than half felt they didn't get enough rest after an inter-county game before returning to club action, while almost a half believed that they weren't permitted to play enough club games.

On the question of the November-December inter-county closed season (games and collective training), 51pc backed it, 33pc were opposed, while 16pc expressed no preference.

The report notes that "some players felt the main motivation for imposing the off-season was to save money for county boards and not player welfare, as a lot of players were still expected to train with individual programmes and/or play provincial or backlog games with their clubs."

There was 76pc support for the timing and structure of the Allianz Leagues, less so (52pc) for the championship on the basis that there were often long periods between games but little club action during that time.

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The NFPC is undertaking a major review of all games programmes to devise a system fair to players at all levels, both on the club and county scene.

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