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Club Players Association withdraw from GAA's fixtures task force

The CPA was set-up three years ago to lobby for a better club GAA fixtures schedule.

CPA Chairman Micheal Briody at the Clayton Hotel in Blanchardstown.
CPA Chairman Micheal Briody at the Clayton Hotel in Blanchardstown.
Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Updated Nov 19th 2019, 4:53 PM

THE CLUB PLAYERS Association have withdrawn from the GAA’s Fixtures Calendar Review Task Force a matter of days before the body is due to deliver its recommendations to GAA hierarchy for a revamped calendar. 

According to a statement released today, the CPA informed task force chairman Eddie Sullivan of their decision last night.

The club players’ body said they could not “in good conscience put our names to such a compromised document.”

They also claimed the task force was a ”Trojan Horse designed to give cover to GAA authorities to ratify the status quo while having the appearance of consultation and thoughtful deliberation.”

Explaining how they reached this point, the statement said:

“The task force needed to adopt fixture making principles from the outset. This was not done until early November and no plan has ever been measured against the principles. 

“The task force spent the first couple of months hearing submissions from other groups, without ever getting into meaningful discussions on them. The submissions had real merit and were deserving of proper consideration. Task force members were then sent an email on 1 August, suggesting three ‘broad options’ for consideration.

“In the same email, the members were asked to review the submissions from the general public. Despite our best efforts, the three ‘broad options’ suggested on 1 August dominated subsequent discussions. This not only made a mockery of asking the public for their opinion, but it also contradicted the notion that ‘everything was on the table’.

Our contention is that the task force is a ‘Trojan horse’, designed to give cover to the GAA authorities to ratify the status quo, while having the appearance of consultation and thoughtful deliberation.

“In reality, it will simply be a ratification process for the newly introduced Tier Two football championship and retention of the Super 8s. Proposals that stand the best chance of getting through the decision making process at Congress, are not the same thing as the best proposals for the future of the GAA.

“The task force made a conscious decision not to adjust the hurling structures. While making some small suggestions, the CPA was initially supportive of this approach, as we felt the task force could offer better overall balance if the football championship was properly addressed. However, as this will not happen, it is now obvious to us that rubber-stamping the new football championship was the priority of the task force all along. 

“The CPA put forward concrete fixture plans at the start of the process, which were not entertained. And the CPA was the only member of the group to develop further plans during the process, responding to feedback in good faith.

“While not perfect, we believe these two plans are superior to any currently being advocated by the task force. We hoped at least one would be adopted into the final report, but when we asked for a vote on 6 November to measure support, we were refused.

“We are disappointed that the task force will not deliver the proposed options that the membership deserves to debate and vote upon. The CPA will not be an accomplice to the entrenchment of the status quo.

“We felt it was the best option for our membership to reveal the efforts that we made and explain the intricate workings of the task force.

“The membership has been inundated with rhetoric in 2019 of ‘Where We All Belong’ at the same time as our association is fast becoming an organisation who no longer prioritises the association as a community based Gaelic Games and culture organisation with the club and the club player at its core.

“Unfortunately, there is a clear and growing disconnect between the leadership of the GAA and their grassroots members. 

“The reality is one of players voting with their feet and deciding that they do not all belong with their clubs and their teammates. The task force will report in due course and players, members, coaches and administrators can decide for themselves if the results and the proposals are the best that the GAA can come up with for the future of our games. We in the CPA strongly believe this not to be the case.”

In response to the CPA’s decision, the GAA has released its own statement this evening.

“The GAA is surprised and disappointed at the decision of the CPA to withdraw its representative Michael Higgins from the Fixture Calendar Review Task Force particularly at such an advanced stage and given that the work of the Task Force is nearing its completion,” it reads. 

The group met for the first time on June 20 and consulted widely. It is understood that the Task Force analysed submissions, proposals and comments across a wide range of issues as outlined in their Terms of Reference.

“The Task Force was expected to develop proposals in a balanced way recognising and respecting the sometimes conflicting views and needs of the various stakeholders involved and the many individuals and groups that it consulted.

“It is understood that the CPA have been represented at all meetings of the Task Force and that they have fully engaged throughout.

The work of the Task Force continues and will be completed later this month. At that stage, any proposals brought forward will be considered and decisions taken by the broader Association on the appropriate next steps.”

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Kevin O'Brien

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