GPA Member Update – Return to Play & Fixtures
I want to update you on the ongoing work regarding the Return to Play (RTP) roadmap and also to report back on your views which were collated through the RTP survey and the Reps and Captains calls on Tuesday, June 16th.
The three key pillars of the GPA’s purpose are to:
- Represent the voice of the Players
- Protect the Players’ Welfare
- Support the Players’ Development as people and professionals
These three pillars have remained front and centre of our work throughout lockdown to ensure we are there for you throughout these uncertain times.
During the lockdown period, we have had several engagements with you to date relating to RTP. These have included 2 reps and captains calls where all squads had the opportunity to voice their opinions, 2 NEC calls and our recent RTP survey to which 1,153 players responded. In addition, there have been multiple individual calls with players.
It has not been a straightforward process to get to this point and while we cannot be complacent, in the knowledge a second wave of Covid-19 remains a possibility, we now at least have reasons to be optimistic.
The players built our organisation, ‘for the players, by the players’, and times like these emphasise the importance of unity of voice on issues that directly impact you. I want to thank all the players who have actively reached out and shared their views.
We have distilled all the information and data from the consultative process down into four key areas which were presented to the GAA’s Fixtures Committee (CCCC) this afternoon.
- Our Guiding Principles
- Protect players’ physical and psychological welfare
- Promote fairness and competition integrity
- Respect the level of preparation required for inter-county competitions
- GPA Core Priorities
There are four areas where you have been strong and forthright in your views, and you have outlined what your core priorities are. These include:
- Competitions must be completed within the calendar year.
- 76% of players back this approach.
- A defined off-season must be set out before the 2021 season begins.
- 72 % of players view this as being very important.
- 75% of players believe the start of the 2021 season should be delayed to ensure this is accommodated.
- Any inter-county training session organised before September 14th must be covered by the GAA Injury Benefit Scheme.
- Minimum 4-week window between club championship completion and first inter-county game.
- Health and Safety Concerns
While there is now government guidance around a safe return to team sports, we are aware that for some of you, your health and safety and that of your family and close friends remains a concern. While the majority of players feel it is safe to return, 17% of players have indicated they may not do so.
We will work to resolve the issues which you have raised; however, while Covid-19 remains in the country, there will remain some risk. We will respect the decision of any players who opt out of playing in 2020. Equally, we would call for understanding from county boards, managers, and supporters on this matter.
We are committed to putting support structures in place for any player who makes this difficult decision, and we urge you to reach out to your GPA representative or directly to anyone on the GPA team.
- Options for Discussion
There was no clear consensus regarding competition structures for the 2020 season; however, the following options gained broad support and will be discussed with the GAA.
- Football: Completion of the leagues followed by a championship where teams have a minimum of two games or (in the event time does not allow for this) completion of the leagues followed by a straight knockout championship.
- Football: A 32-county open championship to ensure fairness across the board if the only available option is a knockout competition.
- Hurling: Completion of all games/or significant league games followed by a championship where teams have a minimum of two games.
- Inter-county preparation: Players to be allowed to return to inter-county training having exited their club championships.
We presented the above to the GAA’s CCCC this afternoon (Friday, June 19th). While acknowledging that they may not be able to deliver on all our priorities, they welcomed the input of inter-county players and will take it into consideration when drafting the master fixture list within the next ten days.
The GAA have positioned the inter-county competitions at the latter end of the year to maximise attendances. They now need to respect the views of the inter-county players on these issues, and as the high performing unit of our sports, the inter-county game needs to be given the respect it deserves.
There are compromises outlined above that we would not contemplate in a regular year and that we cannot guarantee every squad or individual’s preferred outcome. However, our goal is to achieve the best possible result for as many of our members as possible, given the unprecedented circumstances in which we find ourselves.
At all times, feel free to reach out to us with any questions or comments on the above.
Thanks for your support throughout this crisis,