Martin Breheny: CPA rattling the Congress cage
Club players' group propose lengthy list of rule changes
As pre-Christmas wish-lists go, the Club Players' Association (CPA) have come up with quite a selection.
There are no fewer than eight targets on their agenda, each being put to various County Conventions with the ambition of getting them on the Congress agenda at the end of February.
It will be interesting to see how many of them make it to Congress and even more intriguing to see how they fare.
What, for instance, will be the reaction to a call for traceability in how each delegate votes at Congress? Establishing that is a top CPA priority on the basis that the current system is questionable from a democratic viewpoint. They are right on this one. The introduction of a hand-held voting device some years ago removed transparency as it only gives the overall percentages for and against a proposal.
That means that even when a county is mandated by its clubs to vote a certain way, individual delegates - or indeed an entire group - can ignore the instruction without anyone knowing.
Under the old 'show of hands' system it was clear how everyone voted so if delegates went against their counties' instructions, they could be called to account.
The CPA want a return to that level of transparency, not on a show of hands, but through the use of a more sophisticated device where each vote is traceable. The CPA also want Congress motions forwarded to every club for consideration.
A county's stance would be decided by how the majority of clubs voted, effectively removing any level of discretion from the delegates, irrespective of the arguments put forward by others at Congress.
This is likely to be a harder sell than the traceability proposal. It can be difficult to get many members to turn up at club AGMs, let alone for a meeting on motions, many of which are often quite technical and not at all interesting.
Also, issues can sometimes be brought up at Congress that might have escaped a particular county but once delegates were locked in to voting a certain way, they couldn't deviate, even in changed circumstances.
The CPA's third motion calls for county and club fixtures to be overseen by a central control mechanism, which would apply to all counties. They contend that it's necessary in order to curb the pervasive influence of the county scene on the fixtures calendar of club players.
Again, a good idea in theory but it does not take account of the varying situations that arise across different counties.
The CPA also want to remove the ban on appealing fixtures, claiming that it's unfair that clubs have no option but to play a game in circumstances which may be "wholly unreasonable". Few clubs would argue with that but county boards will fight this on the basis that if appeals are allowed, competitions could be delayed.
Also, how many appeal avenues would apply? Could a club go all the way to the DRA (Disputes Resolution Authority)? And how long would that take? Nonetheless, there should be some way of challenging a fixture decision that's clearly unfair.
The CPA also want it written into rule that four consecutive weekends be set aside between April 1 and May 20 so that "club players can train and play together with their full complement of players, the undivided attention and inclusion of county players and panellists on their team".
This is in response to fears that despite the decision to have April free of inter-county activity, county managers will demand access to their full panel for pre-championship training.
That would seriously impact on the club scene in a month which is supposed to be free for local action only. It shouldn't be necessary to write this into rule if county boards were properly discharging their responsibilities but there are well-founded suspicions that many will crack under pressure from county managements.
balance Another CPA proposal calls for the All-Ireland senior football and hurling championships to have reached the semi-final stages by the second Sunday in July. Effectively, that would leave only six inter-county games to be played after from mid-July.
That's a step too far. The balance between club and county activity may have tipped too much in the latter direction, although it can be argued that the two could co-exist far more harmoniously if there were less training and more games.
However, completing all except six games in the All-Ireland championship by mid-July would be a promotional disaster for the GAA.
While the club may well be the bedrock of the Association, the county game is a huge driver in terms of exposure, promotion and finance. Squeezing it into ever-tighter time-frames is neither necessary nor wise.
In fairness, the CPA has come up with some thought-provoking proposals, which deserve to be considered on their merits. But will Congress see it that way?