Most club teams are back in training with a view to win leagues, championships, gain promotion or avoid relegation. That’s the way it has been for years and things haven’t changed much in that respect. The attitude and approach has changed though, particularly within the realms of senior football.
A manager in one club St. Brigid’s in Dublin has taken it to the extreme by making their players sign a contract. The contract contains a number of requirements that must be adhered to and failure to do so would mean expulsion from the panel. The requirements set out by the manager are:I will respond to all notifications on Teamer.
I will come to all games and training on time.
I will tog out in the dressing room beforehand and go back to it afterwards.
I will notify my coach in advance if I cannot attend training or team-related activities.
All holidays must be agreed in advance with management and only taken during breaks in the season.
All team events are compulsory unless agreed in advance with management.
I will be available for all league games, unless agreed in advance with management.
I will attend all club matches (whether I am playing or not) unless I have the prior permission of management.
I will give 100% at each and every training session.
I will make all sacrifices required to make St Brigid's, my team and myself succeed.
I will congratulate my teammates chosen on match days, if I am not in the starting team I will encourage them on the pitch and be ready to give my all for the team if called upon.
I agree to play for whichever Brigid's team I am asked to line out for.
I will go into clubhouse with my teammates after every game.
I will wear my Brigid's training gear to all sessions and full tracksuit to all matches.
I will be rostered to help out with the Brigid's Academy.
I will bring a positive attitude and influence to the group.
I will give every last bit of effort for this team while enjoying it and we will have the craic along the way!!!
I’m not sure what to think about such a contract. When any manager assumes responsibility for a team, most or all of these points are a given. “We will have the craic along the way” is surely something that all players look forward to as a playing member of any club but as I have often stated here, I feel the “craic” has gone out of football.
Signing a club contract wouldn’t be much craic for me. After all, the GAA is still an amateur sport where no financial gain is expected. Winning and success have taken over from the enjoyment of simply participating. Many smaller rural clubs have difficulty in fielding one team never mind two teams these days and I dare say a contract would be thrown into the river Finn.
As I said last week the forming of the Club Players’ Association is a welcome move. The clubs form the backbone of the GAA and clubs have been sidelined for too long when the senior inter-county championship takes precedence. I also believe that major changes in respect of rules need to be introduced. Clubs will try to emulate successful inter-county teams.
Because of the very structured and mechanical systems employed nowadays, freedom of expression is restricted. Great players are stifled by the opposition. It is no secret that attendances are down at inter-county games and have been falling year on year. Kick passing, high-fielding, kicking from the ground and long distance score taking are skills which are in decline. It isn’t the fault of the players. They are coached into ball possession, hand passing and taking scores from a specific scoring zone.
The ‘black card’ was introduced as a disincentive to persistent fouling but as we’ve learned it is a disaster. It favours teams with strong panels. The punishment is too lenient and is often misinterpreted or ignored by some referees.
There is so much that is unattractive in our current game that the GAA has to be bold and make some radical changes. I feel that referees have such a difficult job trying to control 30 on-field players in our modern fast moving game. Lessons have to learned from other codes such as rugby where they are constantly modifying the rules as the game evolves. Misdemeanours are dealt with harsh punishments. Players and officials are held to account for their actions. The referee is wired so that we the spectators are involved and clarity is provided for transparency.
Drawing up a contract for players is an initiative which one manager felt he had to do in order to keep his players on the straight and narrow in his quest for success. The GAA gave us a token change with the introduction of the ‘mark’. There will always be the hard-core supporter who will attend GAA games but even they are becoming disillusioned.
Gaelic games are the best games in the world. We must move to protect them, nurture them and most of all tackle the prevailing issues with courage.
Keep the faith.