Wednesday 21 August 2019

'They are out of sync with what the GPA has been saying - Paul Flynn's semi-pro view ruffles GAA feathers

Paul Flynn, GPA CEO. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Paul Flynn, GPA CEO. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Dermot Crowe

A high-ranking GAA source has said that comments on the amateur status by Paul Flynn, the CEO of the GPA, were a deviation from the players' body's position up to now.

"They are out of sync with what the GPA has been saying," he claimed. "They always said there was no move towards professionalism or semi-professionalism. I don't know where this is coming from."

He said that players, especially at the top level, were well looked after and explained that the GAA could not afford any level of professionalism.

Flynn made the comments in a newspaper interview. "The amateur ethos of the GAA is important and it's important to our members," he stated. "However, at the same time, when we ask our members - and we constantly survey them on issues - semi-professionalism is something that they would be interested in.

"There's an important distinction between that and full-time professionalism. Define amateurism as well. We have amateur athletes who represent us at Olympics, but they are in receipt of funding and they train full-time. So amateur and semi-professionalism, it's a grey area between them both anyway."

For the GAA, there exists no grey area - any move towards semi-professionalism would be staunchly opposed. It is also unlikely to gain much traction on the ground, among the grassroots, where clubs are already worried about the growing gap between the club and county demographic.

"Any inter-county player on a semi-professional deal or contract would feel a greater sense of duty and commitment to that team which would lead, as in other sports like rugby, to a rapidly diminishing club game," said a source.

"That commitment to the club would go out the window. I think that is the main reason it would not happen."

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He also said that Revenue would take a deeper interest if players were benefiting directly from playing and players could end up being worse off.

Another high-ranking source in Croke Park said the comments did not set off any alarm bells. "It's very obvious that the broader membership of the GAA see the principles of amateur status as sacrosanct as regards pay for play," he said.

"Ultimately, it is the full GAA membership that will dictate what they want in this context and as far as we're concerned, that's for the amateur status to be protected."

He added that is was "worth remembering that the current funding relationship with and recognition of the GPA is predicated entirely on their stated commitment to the amateur status; that's the entire basis of the current relationship.

"Any dilution of that from the GPA side and it's likely the entire current arrangement and funding would cease."

The annual deal agreed between the GAA and GPA is worth €6.2m to the players' body.

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