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GAA Players' Chief: 'Don't tell me we can't come back next February with stronger proposals'

The GPA-backed Proposal B was defeated at Special Congress yesterday, despite receiving a majority vote.

GPA CEO Tom Parsons at yesterday's Special Congress.
GPA CEO Tom Parsons at yesterday's Special Congress.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

Updated Oct 24th 2021, 11:54 AM

GPA CHIEF EXECUTIVE Tom Parsons has urged the GAA hierarchy to bring a reworked Proposal B to the floor at Congress next February, with a view to installing it in time for the 2023 season.

The former Mayo midfielder cut a deflated figure in the wake of Proposal B’s defeat at Special Congress yesterday, but struck an optimistic note as he addressed the media in the aftermath of the vote. 

Parsons highlighted how the motion that was viewed as a “dead duck” a month ago was supported by the majority despite falling short of the 60% required to be passed. 

“We started this campaign with a lot of sentiments that this was a dead duck and that it will never get passed,” he said. “We won a majority today.

“Absolutely everybody who spoke for or against (Proposal B), mentioned the word ‘change’ and there is an acceptance that the status quo is broken.

“The GPA needs to ensure that change is kept on the agenda and we will certainly be burning the midnight oil and ensuring that a changed proposal is on the agenda in February and that’s something we will be committed to.”

In an earlier press conference, GAA director-general Tom Ryan admitted he was unsure if they would have a fresh proposal ready for Congress 2022.

“I think it is a tweaking exercise,” responded Parsons. “There is no reason what that can’t be taken and tweaked and brought back in February as a separate motion but similar spirit.

“We’ll be starting that process very soon. Change will never be perfect and people will need to accept that what is brought to the table will never 100% facilitate everyone’s hopes and aspirations, and that does need to be realised.

“I’m absolutely optimistic that change will be brought back and be on the table in February, that we will shift that dial from 50.4% to 60%.

“Don’t tell me we can’t come to next February with a stronger proposal,” he continued.

“We’ve got a proposal that got the majority today, that sparked huge interest and conversation. It is the foundation to something. Not all that work is undone because it didn’t pass today.

“Personally, I wouldn’t accept that it’s not on the table for February. I suspect that when we consult with our players they won’t accept that something is not on the table for February and ready to be implemented for 2023.

“This is very very important to players,” he continued. “Every year that is missed is potentially another year gone for the development of footballers and potentially another year where maybe players in lower counties decide to opt out because they don’t see a pathway to success.”

Parsons accepted that bringing a motion to a Special Congress around the same time next year would be acceptable if it means a new format will be introduced in time for 2023. 

GPA co-chair Maria Kinsella added, “I think one of the advantages of the discussion both in the room today and also during the last two weeks is that people’s fears and also their desires of what they want in a restructured championship have been very much laid out on the table.

“Everybody now knows what they are looking for and the key element that needs to be in the new proposal, for it to succeed. We are not starting from scratch here, it has been identified, let’s go away, work on it, tweak it and let’s get it back on the table in February.”

larry-mccarthy-and-former-present-john-horan-after-motion-19-is-defeated President Larry McCarthy and former president John Horan after Motion 19 is defeated after failing to get 60%. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Parsons called on the GAA to retain the Fixtures Review Task Force, established by John Horan in 2019, that came up with the proposal to revamp the football championship. 

“We have an incredible fixtures task force, the likes of Kevin O’Donovan, Conor O’Donoghue, Ronan Sheehan, and John Horan. I hope we don’t lose all that talent. I’d ask leadership to retain that talent because they have digested over 28 proposals and thought deeply about this.

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“I have huge respect for the task force and the incredible minds in it. They’ve come to the conclusion that a league-based championship will bring appetite.

“So that’s a very strong foundation and maybe mix that with other proposals. But absolutely, to ask those people to get back in the room again is important.”

He admitted that allaying the fears that provincial competitions won’t be devalued, particularly in Ulster, must be a priority for the GAA going forward. 

“We definitely need to alleviate fears that our provincial competitions, which are important, that they are going to be left behind because they come before a competition that is just more competitive, that just develops all teams.

“That is going to be the responsibility of our leadership in the GAA, Tom Ryan and Larry McCarthy in particular, to alleviate those fears held by Ulster, in particular, but some other provinces as well.

“But there is no doubt about it, a league-based competition as your core competition, with everyone playing in May and June, has to be the way to go. If we consult back with players I very much expect players will want the centre-piece of the summer to be the league as championship. It’s captured the hearts and minds of way too many people for it not to be.

“It is now about alleviating concerns and is there a link we can make between the provinces and a league-based championship. Is it to put points on the board? We can be creative and innovative, we have enough bright minds in the room.”

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About the author:

Kevin O'Brien  / Reports from Croke Park

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