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frustration GPA question ‘integrity’ of GAA in hard-hitting statement as mileage-rates row escalates

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Matthew O’Hanlon

Matthew O’Hanlon

Matthew O’Hanlon

The GPA have released a hard-hitting statement on behalf of its National Executive Committee Co-Chair and Wexford hurler Matthew O’Hanlon and questioned whether the GAA entered negotiations around player entitlements in an ‘honest way’.

In a wide ranging missive related to the to the ongoing dispute between the GPA and the GAA around mileage rates, which saw players refuse to engage in match day media last weekend, O’Hanlon also accused the GAA of imposing ‘a squad charter on their terms’ and did so without the ‘agreement of players.’

“Last weekend players took a stand that we would not engage in match day media activity around games,” O’Hanlon wrote. “It was a small gesture to highlight player frustration over the ongoing issues around squad charters. It had minimal impact on fans, if any. The GAA’s response was to unilaterally, without the agreement of players, try to impose a squad charter on their terms.

“The GAA have designed this charter, by their account, with player welfare in mind. Again, let’s be clear on this. Last December through to March the GAA came to the negotiating table wanting to retain the cost-saving measures players had agreed to during the Covid crisis. Now however, language around player welfare had been conveniently added in.

“At the time the GAA negotiating team put forward a case that 50 cent per mile for 3 sessions a week and a cap of 32 players was all they could afford. Two months later they posted a profit for 2021 of €13.5 million. Was that an honest way to negotiate?”

The most recent charter put forward by the GAA allows for four collective sessions a week at a rate of 65c per mile with any further gatherings to be paid at a rate negotiated at local level.

“The GAA are now willing to cover four sessions per week at 65c. That came about because last week the GPA let them know we would be communicating with all players. Three sessions were then moved to four over the course of 24 hours. Surely if player welfare was the concern here such a move, adding 33% to a training load, would be unthinkable.

“Following on from that, the GAA now want to enforce a charter where 4 sessions are agreed at 65c per mile and then anything above that will need to be negotiated locally by players with county boards. In other words, county boards can allow as many sessions as they want – the GAA would be openly allowing unlimited training, but players would be financially penalised because the GAA accept a reduced mileage rate for sessions above 4.”

O’Hanlon added that the GPA and GAA were looking at a policy document based around ‘contact hours’ where sports science would be employed to determine the optimum amount of sessions required depending on the time of the season.

“Players are still open and willing to go back to the negotiating table based on the above. It would be fair, based on expertise and would likely not cost the GAA anything more than what they are trying to impose.

“The key difference – players would not be used by the GAA as a cost control measure. If they actually have player welfare in mind, then it’s a no-brainer to use a Contact Hours Policy.”

O’Hanlon’s comments come following an escalation of the dispute between the GPA and GAA over expenses. The GPA want all weekly sessions/games at the 65cent per mile rate so that players who are asked to commit to more than four by managers are not left out of pocket.

But while the GAA will currently sanction four sessions/games in a week at this rate, they say anything above this has to be subject of local agreements.

Earlier this week, director-general Tom Ryan issued a note to counties explaining the rationale: “While we recognise that players are volunteers and that ultimately each county set-up is an independent entity, we cannot continue to fund bad practice with regard to player welfare.”

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