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The GPA has set out its stall ahead of this weekend's big Congress votes

Players’ body calls for a no vote on ‘B’ Championship, and no on mandatory free-to-air championship games.

Delegates vote at last year's Congress in the Slieve Russell Hotel in Cavan.
Delegates vote at last year's Congress in the Slieve Russell Hotel in Cavan.
Image: Andrew Paton/INPHO

THE GAELIC PLAYERS Association has called on delegates to oppose the introduction of a ‘B’ competition for weaker counties when All-Ireland football championship reform is debated at GAA Congress this weekend.

In a statement issued on Thursday afternoon, the GPA made its position clear on a number of key motions, including:

  • Support for a move to change the U21 football grade to U20
  • And opposition to a motion to keep all championship games on free-to-air TV, blocking any future deals with Sky Sports and other subscription broadcasters.

Delegates from across the country will meet tomorrow and Saturday at the Mount Wolseley Hotel in County Carlow to debate a total of 65 motions.

Motion 2 would see the All-Ireland football championship split into two with the eight Division 4  teams relegated to a secondary competition, a divisive proposal which has been unanimously opposed by players.

Instead, the GPA plans to call for a new working group to be set up after Congress to develop a new championship format.

“We have spent over a year discussing new structures and changes with our football members and there remains serious opposition to the introduction of a second tier in the football championship,” GPA secretary Paul Flynn said.

“The squads directly affected if change is introduced have also voted recently not to participate in the new format.

We would urge Congress delegates to back the players here and oppose the motions advocating a second tier in the senior football championship.

The motion to keep all championship games on free-to-air TV would be “wholly regressive,” GPA chairman Seamus Hickey added.

Such a move could cost the GAA in the region of €5 million a year, or €15 million over the course of the next three-year rights deal from 2017-2019, according to a report in Thursday’s Irish Independent — although the accuracy of those figures has been contested.

“It would deny the GAA the ability to negotiate the very best possible deal on behalf of the Association,” Hickey said.

From a players perspective the commercial reality of this situation is that increased funding means greater support for player welfare not to mention the wider benefits to the GAA in terms of coaching, games promotion, infrastructure and facilities.

“It should also be noted that not every ‘free-to-air’ channel is available to GAA members in the Six Counties.”

See the GAA Congress motions here >

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Niall Kelly

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