I watched a repeat of 'Pairc Life', a documentary on professionalism in the GAA, on Sunday evening. It is a topic that really interests me and one we have often covered on the show.
I was glad to see players like Seamus Hickey and Podge Collins admit they would like the GAA to go professional, however far-fetched the idea is. The GAA will never go full-time professional, that's obvious. It's just not sustainable in a small country like Ireland with no international dimension to our games.
That does not mean it can't go semi-professional. A full-time professional game should not be used as a scare tactic by those not wanting pay-for-play.
Players should be paid by the GAA. This column has called for inter-county players to demand a percentage of the gate receipts they are directly responsible for. Nothing changes with this system. The players still go to college and work in the community but at the end of the year they get a one-off payment from the GAA to thank them for their commitment, and the enjoyment, entertainment and excitement they gave the people of Ireland during the year. They deserve a gesture from the GAA for the millions of revenue they generate during the summer.
Never mind the scaremongers, this would not mean the GAA is going professional. Like I said above, a professional game is not workable in Ireland. The percentage of gate receipts could be pooled into a fund and shared out amongst counties on a pro rata basis just like the government grants are now. Who will drive this forward? The GPA is funded by the GAA so count them out. As the players' union this should be their responsibility but unfortunately they have let their players down and compromised themselves by accepting money from the GAA.
Semi-professionalism is the way to go to keep everyone happy. The players need to drive this on and get what they deserve before another generation of amateurs are taken advantage of.