Saturday 18 November 2017

GAA ban threat

Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

DOZENS of players and managers would face 24-week suspensions on their return from pre-championship training camps if the GAA implemented its strict rules on full-time training.

Instead, the GAA are blatantly ignoring the rule while acknowledging that it's being broken on an increasing basis as counties seek to gain an extra edge for the championship.

"It's there in black and white, but we can't implement it as it stands, because, if we did, it would wreck the championships," said a senior GAA source.

The rule stipulates that GAA members may not participate in full-time training and carries a 24-week suspension or expulsion for any violations.

Cork, Kerry, Waterford, Tipperary, Meath, Kildare and Laois are among the counties who have used training camps -- at home and abroad -- already this year and Mayo are planning a six-day trip to Portugal next month.

Rule 1.10, which covers amateur status, is unequivocal in preventing full-time training.

However, as the GAA authorities grapple with how to deal with amateurism, they have ignored the training camp issue, but it's now expected to be part of a fundamental review of the rule.

A senior GAA insider admitted that Rule 1.10 was broken by every county which went into full-time training camps. "What are we supposed to do? Suspend them all for six months? That would leave us with a right mess.

The amateur status rule needs to be reviewed under all headings and this is certainly one aspect which must be addressed. We can't have a rule which is being totally ignored. It should be either scrapped or implemented," he said.

The ban on full-time training has been in place since 1954, when it was introduced in response to counties bringing squads together for varying lengths of time before big games.

It was alleged that players were being paid, which led to the proposal to prevent full-time training. A heated debate took place at Congress before it was decided on a 95-56 vote to ban it.

It has remained in the rule-book ever since. A call to have it deleted was proposed by Roscommon at the 1980 Congress, but got little support.

Roscommon had been among its supporters in 1954 too, arguing that full-time training had helped them to the All-Ireland double in 1943-44.

Most training camps last less than a week at present, but there are growing fears in Croke Park that it could increase to a fortnight -- or longer -- at some time in the future.

Clearly, that raises the issue of financial compensation for players and also increases the possibility that counties with wealthy backers would be in a position to gain an unfair advantage over their poorer rivals.

Croke Park are remaining silent on the issue for now but movement on amending the rule on amateur status -- and training camps -- can be expected before next year.

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