Sunday 8 December 2019

'Is the club better off than this time last year? No, it's not. This year is going to be carnage for the club' - CPA chief

Briody insists group determined to make Congress delegates more accountable

CPA chief Michael Briody insists the organisation does not want money or position. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
CPA chief Michael Briody insists the organisation does not want money or position. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Declan Bogue

"Two things we don't want; we don't want money, and we don't want position," states Micheál Briody, chairman of the Club Players' Association (CPA) a year after the formation of the lobby group.

"There is nobody who wants to be chairman of a county or any of those positions. Our agenda is quite pure - we just want a better deal for club players.

"So, we can't be bought off by money or position. We are not going away.

"We are talking about our strategy for this year and what we are doing going forward, we have plans for that."

After the first 12 months, Briody has mixed feelings about the impact the CPA have had on the GAA.

Despite the snub at Congress, when they were informed by GAA president Aogán Ó Fearghail it would be "inappropriate" for them to speak on a motion officially recognising the group in February, they have in some ways influenced GAA thinking by stealth.

But ask him if the association is better in general and he has serious reservations.

"Is the club better off than this time last year? No, it is not. I guarantee you," he argues.

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"This year is going to be carnage for the club because of the changes in inter-county football and hurling.

"And because at the launch of the fixtures masterplan, (director-general) Páraic Duffy stood up and when asked about the month of April, he said it was up to each county board to enforce it themselves.

"There needs to be more direction coming from Croke Park."

It cannot be said that some of the thinking hasn't been adopted by Croke Park. When the fixtures were launched, the GAA began talking in terms of a 'masterplan' for the first time.

But official channels have brought frustration.

"We were disappointed with the response, specifically with the president," says Briody with exasperation.

"We asked him to go to a meeting. Given we had 25,000 members we thought it reasonable enough to say, 'We have a masterplan, we would like to present it to you'.

"We had an hour-and-a-half-long meeting with Anthony Moyles, Liam Griffin and Derek Kavanagh and I think the president spoke seven words.

"Páraic Duffy was at it, Fergal McGill, the two of them throughout have been professional and accommodating. We may have agreed and disagreed on certain things but we were always professional."

The CPA caused a stir in their first few weeks, publicly asking the GAA to 'park the proposals' for the new All-Ireland football championship, fearing that hurling and club action was not given sufficient attention.

They called for a conference or forum to group the stakeholders together and managed to get a proposal on to the floor at Congress seeking official recognition.

On the day, a number of delegates voiced their disapproval concerning a group that at the time had numbered 25,000 club players as members.

"There were people standing up in Congress… It was actually quite amusing to see how vitriolic they were," recalls Briody.

But surely he, who has walked the walked in GAA administration, has been chairman his own club, St Brigid's in Meath for several years from his mid-20s, couldn't have been surprised?

"It seems to be an old boys' club," he replies.

"Myself and Anthony Moyles were invited to Congress. But because we had asked to speak on the motion, we were denied by the president, who wrote he didn't feel it was appropriate because we weren't recognised at the time - albeit other non-delegates of Congress had been invited in to speak on various issues, which is fine.

"Us being recognised wasn't critical to our survival. We didn't set up in January saying we had got to get recognised at Congress.

"It put us in the media's eyes and then as well as that, it gave us that publicity and what we were saying on the Super 8s."

How club players are treated in the GAA is grave, Briody argues. And it doesn't require a lobby group to tell them. The GAA's own research is as good a barometer as anything.

"Even the GAA's own report from 2013 showed a 75pc dropout rate of young lads in football from 19-25. GAA have done nothing about it," he states.

"Like, you can't take a step back, and play half a year. You don't.

"You are expected to go to training in January and sell your life, sell your soul.

"That's the problem. You can't do other things, go away for a weekend, book a holiday for the summer."

Looking ahead to 2018, next month's Congress will already have a serious CPA presence in the motion coming from the St Anne's club in Wexford, which calls for all votes at Congress to be accounted for.

The CPA have former All-Ireland hurling-winning manager Liam Griffin bringing his considerable oratory talents to the floor.

He has three minutes to get his point across and Briody believes that the very integrity of Congress is at stake.

He explains: "We all see county boards saying that they should vote on a motion.

"Five delegates go to Congress, they press a button. There is no traceability back to say who voted for what.

"We don't know who voted for the Super 8s.

"So why is there no traceability to see how the delegates voted. Because they are delegates. And delegates by name means they are delegated to do as instructed. His own opinion doesn't and shouldn't matter.

"They shouldn't be swayed by a debate on the Congress floor, or a debate at the bar. So why is there no traceability?"

Do turkeys vote for Christmas?

"It will be a great test of Congress," adds Briody.

"Are we prepared to be traceable, to be open-book, or are we saying we will close the book forever.

"If it's a democratic organisation, it has to pass.

"If it doesn't, then Croke Park can never say to us again that it is a democratic organisation if that does not pass."

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