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GPA not happy after GAA annual reports and hit out at 'problem child' tag

The players’ group are disappointed that the ‘so-called unsustainable costs’ of the inter-county games have been highlighted.

GPA CEO Paul Flynn.
GPA CEO Paul Flynn.
Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

THE GPA HAVE hit out at the inter-county game being portrayed as ‘the GAA’s problem child’ and feel it is disappointing the ‘so-called unsustainable costs of those inter-county games’ are being highlighted by the GAA.

The players’ group released a hard-hitting statement this evening in response to the launch yesterday of the 2019 GAA Director-General and Financial reports. 

The GAA reported a bumper financial year as their total revenue surpassed €73 million and there was a 22% increase in gate receipts.

But Tom Ryan warned that inter-county team spending needed to be curbed after a 11.6% spike in 2019 saw the collective outlay around the country reach €29.74 million.

In a statement signed by GPA CEO Paul Flynn, the group state they are not happy with what they see as ‘this ploy of painting inter-county games in a negative light used consistently to keep players down’ and want the role of county players to the overall health of the GAA to be acknowledged given their role in driving up revenues.

ger-mulryan-tom-ryan-john-horan-and-peter-mckenna Ger Mulryan, Tom Ryan, John Horan and Peter McKenna at the 2019 GAA annual reports launch. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

The GPA welcome Ryan’s comments about working towards ‘building a modern form of sustainable amateurism’ and the constructive comments on the ongoing negotiations between the groups over a new deal after the current one expires at the close of 2020.

Here’s the statement in full:

GPA Statement on the GAA’s Annual Report

The Gaelic Players Association have read with interest the GAA’s Annual Report and Annual Accounts which were published yesterday. Their Annual Report is a comprehensive and thought-provoking document and we urge everyone with an interest in Gaelic games, but particularly our members, to give it the consideration it deserves.

For the past six months the GPA have been speaking about the need to work towards building a modern form of sustainable amateurism where our members can have balance between their playing, personal and professional lives. We have done this both publicly when speaking to the media and also privately in our ongoing meetings with the GAA and other stakeholders.

We welcome the fact that this sort of language is reflected in GAA Director General Tom Ryan’s commentary. Delivering a modern form of sustainable amateurism will be a central tenet of our new Strategic Plan which is close to being finalised. There will be differences between what that sustainability looks like for players and for the GAA but we will work on the players’ behalf to find the desired balance.

We also acknowledge the Director General’s constructive comments on the ongoing negotiations between the GPA and the GAA. We will keep lines of dialogue to the GAA open in this regard as we work towards achieving a new deal for our members. The previous arrangement rolls over for 2020.

However, it is disappointing for our members, that the inter-county game to which they dedicate 31 hours of their time each week, as they proudly represent their counties, is once again being presented as the GAA’s problem child. Far from being a problem child, inter-county games, and the players that make them the spectacle that they are, continue to be the jewel in the crown of the GAA.

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Therefore, in the midst of the record-breaking revenues of €73.9 million reported for 2019 (up 16%), which are primarily and overwhelmingly generated off the inter county games, it is disappointing to see that it is the so-called unsustainable costs of those inter-county games commanding such a share of the GAA’s attention.

Instead we should be celebrating the inter-county games for the success story that they are. The resources our members help generate enable the GAA to be the fantastic community and club-based organisation it is.

The GAA proudly stated on the publication of their Annual Accounts that for every €1 revenue it takes in, it reinvests 84 cent across the association for which it should be rightly commended. Approximately 90% of those revenues are generated through the inter-county game; 49% by gate receipts, 27% by commercial income (sponsorship and media), 14% by distribution from Croke Park. All of these are attributable to the inter county games. This is only the central accounts and does not account for provincial and county board revenue.

Our inter-county games are the revenue generating machine that allows the GAA to compete with rugby, soccer and other sports for hearts and minds of the Irish public. Our inter-county games are the flagship promotional and developmental tool that keeps the GAA in the news and journalists, pundits, administrators, coaches, physios and all the other professionals working within the inter county games in jobs. Our inter-county games allow the GAA to thrive on the field and financially.

We have seen this ploy of painting inter county games in a negative light used consistently to keep players down, to make them feel like they are lucky to be involved in the games. Make no mistake, the players, past and present, are proud to represent their counties at the highest level but the GAA is also lucky to have those players who give so much of themselves, often to their own detriment, to allow it generate the revenues that keeps the association afloat.

Furthermore, inter county games not only generate revenue for the GAA but they also have a massive impact on the Irish economy. We will be publishing the findings of an Indecon Report undertaken on our behalf in the coming weeks. Indecon are renowned international economic consultants. The results illustrate clearly that impact of inter-county games.

Inter-county fixtures generate a total economic impact of €390 million annually, supporting 3,600 jobs and directly contributing over €40 million to the exchequer. This at a time when many of our players can barely make ends meet and in many cases cannot.

It is our view that the role of inter county games and our players to the overall health of the GAA, as evidenced in the Annual Report, needed to be acknowledged.

We hope all inter-county players, past and present, are proud of their role in driving the success of the GAA and that all aspiring young players are motivated to play their role in continuing this legacy.

We will be making no further comment at this time.

Paul Flynn

GPA CEO

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Fintan O'Toole

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