70% of players favour pro/semi-pro status

The recent announcement of a GAA game for the Sony Playstation2 has raised the issue of players’ control of the rights to their image for sponsorship purposes, with two prominent members of the Gaelic Players Association [GPA] critical of the GAA Board’s absence of consultation with those featured in the game. The GPA have also just released the first large-scale survey, by UCD, of players’ attitudes and note that 70% of senior inter-county players favour a move to professional, or semi-professional, status.[section 13]

From the survey report

Section 13 Amateur Status

Section 13 of the Constitution and Rules of the GAA unequivocally defines the amateur status of Gaelic Games, a status taken for granted in the past. This confirms the recommendations of the Amateur Status Report (1997) and the view of the Strategic Review Committee . The latter (section 14.2) ‘would not envisage a professional game, or ‘pay-for-play’ ‘. This however is not the view of the majority of Senior Intercounty players.

The present survey clearly demonstrates the major commitment of time demanded by inclusion in a Senior Intercounty Panel. This commitment by GAA players now equals, and frequently exceeds, that of part-time and full-time professionals in other sports. It is clear that the majority of players favour being reimbursed for loss of earnings and other expenses incurred by their membership of Senior Intercounty Panels. Moreover, seventy per cent of players also favour a move to professional or semi-professional status. However, only a small minority of these favour full-time professionalism. The great majority of players believe that Gaelic Games could not sustain full-time professionalism at present and less than half believe that they could do so by the year 2020. In contrast, two-thirds of players believe that, even at present, semi-professionalism could be sustained at the Senior Intercounty level, again a view at variance with that of the 2002 Strategic Review. A move to such a status would obviously have major implications for the GAA.

  • bob

    Tyrones Sean Kavanagh today turned down a £250,000 a year contract with Brisbane, to play Aussie rules.

  • maca

    I’ve just ordered the game, can’t wait for it, even if it’s shite.

    I’d definitly prefer to see the GAA remaining an amateur organisation, but it’s clear that players need to be better compensated. Without the players the GAA are nothing, it’s because of these guys (& others) who sacrifice so much that the GAA is as popular as it is.

  • Baluba

    Professionalism would kill the games/association!!! Players do need to have more compensation though.

    Feck it, maybe if they played Antrim’s hurlers they’d stay off the drink for long enough to actually win something!!!

    Money won’t fix the footballers.

  • slug

    “I’d definitly prefer to see the GAA remaining an amateur organisation, but it’s clear that players need to be better compensated.”

    Isn’t this contradictory?

  • stu

    If the players want to go pro, they should be allowed to before someone comes in and sets up the Budweiser Super League. From my limited knowledge of GAA, I can’t see them striking to get what they want, but eventually the money will be able to get them playing in Oz etc.

    Would a change to pro (and predicted rise in ticket prices etc) sit well with your average GAA fan?

  • beano

    What price is the average GAA ticket?

  • cas

    While the ‘professional’ player idea is a thorny issue, I don’t think we whould forget the millions being put into gaa facilities all over the country.

    One only has to attend a game at Croke Park to see the modern day GAA. State of the art facilities, superb playing surface and 82500 supporters.

    After spending 3 million on Casement park several years ago, the ground is to have flood lights installed and further improvements to the seated areas.

    The training facilities of county teams are as good as you would see in many clubs in England.

  • PS

    Beano

    A League match – £7stg
    Ulster Championship – €20
    All Ireland q/final or semi-final around €30/35
    All Ireland final €45

    Those are rough enough estimates as I can’t remember exact figures for every match I go to off the top of my head.

    I really don’t think the GAA can afford to go down the professional route. It would be a disaster financially as well as having a crippling effect on the club game similar to what has been seen in local rugby since the provinces went professional.

  • Baluba

    I agree PS. The GAAs financial reports each year show serious debt, not massive piles of dough sitting in their offices.

    I don’t think there’s any doubt that with increasing professionalism there will be increased remuneration, but bringing in a pay scheme etc is not a goer I don’t think.

    A few questions it raises for me:

    1. Would it create super counties according to affluence as opposed to ability or would the GAA itself administrate the pay?

    2. Would a player transfer system evolve so people could follow the money?

    3. Where would it leave weaker counties such as my own (Antrim) or would we, because we have a city spring up through financial backing?

    Too many dodgy outcomes I think. If a lad has to drive a lot, pay his petrol. Sin é. ;o)

  • Rationalist

    With the levels of fitness in teams such as Tyrone, Kerry and Armagh approaching those of Premiership soccer players and the amount of commitment demanded in the modern game, it’s not surprising that this much-discussed debate has arisen yet again. Players are already rewarded for their efforts in the form of free holidays, trips to Australia (for the elite band) and various perks and favours and within their local communities.

    Any high profile county player with a qualification in teaching, joinery, accountancy or related occupations will never have any difficulty walking into a job.

    In any case there also lucrative sponsorship deals available to supplement a player’s income. The face of Brian Dooher or Paul McGrane on billboard posters or tv ads is rapidly becoming a familiar sight.

    The very ethos of the GAA is rooted in amateurism with a sense of devotion to one’s home town or county being of the essence – an ideal which has long gone in many other sports. How many Manchester United players, for example actually come from Manchester? Part of the GAA’s attraction is that county players can be stars in their own rural communities on a Sunday, yet on the following Monday they’re back in their offices, classrooms or building sites. Professionalism would kill off this sense of attachment to one’s local roots.

    I would agree with PS’s comments about how professionalism in rugby has had an adverse effect on the local clubs. I could see a similar thing happening within the GAA under such circumstances. The gap between weaker and stronger counties at the moment is big enough at the moment. The advent of professionalism could increase that gap even more as has been seen in the English and Scottish Premierships. The long overdue back-door system in the championship has been good for the game, allowing traditionally weaker counties such as Fermanagh, Westmeath and Sligo to greatly boost their profiles, a feat which would not have been possible under the old system. If the game were to turn professional all this good work would become undone.

    I think Sean Cavanagh’s decison to put a love of the game and loyalty to his native county before money by turning down the offer to play for Brisbane says it all. If it were the other way round and we had players from Brisbane or Melbourne lining out for Tyrone or Armagh simply for the money an essential part of the spirit of the game would be lost.

  • T.Ruth

    Professionalism will result in all the money derived from supporters going to the players,clubs paying more and more for success, the death of the volunteer ethos,payment for coaches and all other support staff and a total change in the culture surrounding the game, Fortunately GAA clubs cannot sell off their grounds as is happening in soccer. A capped expense allowance to players is the least worst option.

  • cas

    Certainly there are increased opportunities for players to earn revenue via corporate sponsorship and advertising etc..but to move to a professional/semi-professional status would be disasterous for the game.

  • willowfield

    The management of the GAA must be seriously negligent if they run at a loss every year. They get huge paying crowds, massive sponsorship, and vast sums of government hand-outs. They don’t pay their players, yet they can’t make a profit!

  • Tochais Síoraí

    Willowfield, go to Croke Park. See all the top class GAA grounds around the place. That’s why they’re not in the black, they’re investing in the infrastructure.

    As for professinalism, the GAA can’t go all the way for a whole host of reasons. However, there is a serious problem in that the GAA are losing players (not to Aussie Rules, there’ll only ever be a few) but to work, family etc. I don’t have any figures but I’d guess that the age of the average inter-county player is going down all the time because of the time and commitment players have to put in to reach the neccessary standard nowadays. If you’re not a student, self employed (and willing to make far less money) or in certain sales jobs your career is going to suffer big time. In my own county I can name at least 10 players who are inter county standard who can’t make the commitment to the county because they can’t devote the time.

    Some kind of semi-pro set-up is the only way forward.

  • maca

    Slug
    “Isn’t this contradictory?”

    No not at all. They shouldn’t be paid to play but they should be better compensated for time/cost of travelling or time off work. They should also be able to earn more from advertising for example.

  • Mark

    Being compensated for time off work is all very well if you have an understanding employer, but won’t help those who can’t get time off work – look at Peter Thompson who was invited to train with Norn Iron but the post office wouldn’t let him have the time. As is pointed out above, this maybe isn’t such a problem for the high profile players, but how do you reach that stage if you can’t get time off?
    Also, there is clearly plenty of money being made and and it’s being made because people pay to see the players – is it too unreasonable to suggest they should receive some of this? The experience of small rugby clubs is a warning, but the GAA needn’t fall into that trap. In the rush to professionalism, teams went pro that never had the crowd to sustain it, then saw their highest-paid players spend most of their time away from the club playing an increasingly full Ulster schedule. Might the clubs remain amateur with players signing up to their county full-time if they are picked, then being paid accordingly?
    Just one thought and from someone who doesn’t follow Gaelic games too closely at that, but I would be interested to hear what people think…