Saturday, October 27, 2007

Why you should oppose the GPA strike - Reason No. 1

In the GAA world there are three major groupings, the players, the elected officers and the supporters. We know where the other two stand on this issue. But, what about the supporters-who after all make up 98% of the GAA? Ordinary clubmen and supporters need to stand up and make their voice heard on the GPA and their ultimate agenda. A lot of people are opposed to the strike but their voice is dissipated across the Internet and barely mentioned by the media. We need to change this by coming together to demonstrate our opposition. I'm trying to take this initiative by announcing a call to action. As a first step Declare for your County by signing the petition.

There are also those out there who say, "Why not? Why shouldn't they get a few bob?" They need to be educated on the Pandora's Box of pain and trouble that paying a grant to the players will open up. I'll try to this over over the coming weeks.

The GPA is a Trojan Horse for pay for play. No amount of denial on their behalf can deny this. The payment of the grant to players will establish a principle that cannot be reversed. It will forevermore form a link between playing for the county and financial compensation. There will be no turning back. From this point on it becomes a question of (a) how much pay? and (b) who pays? Nickey Brennan and the Croke Park officials are right not to get involved in the mechanics of distributing the government grant. It is the government's money therefore, it should be up to the Government to find a mechanism to pay the players. There is no guarantee that the money will be granted every year by the government. In that case the GPA will undoubtedly continue to demand their grant directly from the GAA. They won't care about the source, they'll just want their money. If the GPA get €5m this year, what will they want in two years time? They tell us now that the payment of the grant is an "acknowledgement of their status as inter-county players". Undoubtedly, in a few years they will tell us that €2,500 is too small, that it is an "insult to their status as inter-county players" and that the GAA should come up with more.

How do know this? It's an inevitable process that has already been demonstrated by the short history of the GPA. The GPA agenda has changed considerably since the organisation's foundation. For nearly a decade now the GPA has improved conditions for inter-county players, and fair play to them for doing so-it was needed. When they first started out they increased the measly 12p-a-mile expense allowance and ensured that all players received hot meals after training and received free gear. But increasingly, they have sounded like workers in a sweatshop. They talk of exploitation, the absence of compensation and benefits, poor conditions, denial of rights and emotional humiliation (because they look at the rugby and soccer players and can't help feeling that they are being taken for a ride). Before welfare meant player representation and better conditions. Less than ten years later it now means money in their back pockets. If the GPA's current demands are met, then they will look for more. They are already speaking in those terms. Just this week Donal O'Neill spoke of the GPA getting a percentage of any new television deal negotiated by Croke Park. If this isn't moving the GAA to pay for play, what is? It is clear that their longterm aim is a move towards professionalism in some form or other, and no amount of denying it can hide this fact.

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