On the 9th of January this year the Club Players’ Association was officially launched in Ballyboden St Enda’s club in Dublin. The body was set up to give club players all over the country a voice.
In their opening statement they said their main objective was to “fix the fixtures”. They went on to confirm that the “underlying principal of the Club Players’ Association is the emotional and physical well-being of our players. They deserve the opportunity to train and play meaningful games, in a balanced fixture programme.”
It’s obvious by the people who have got involved that they are frustrated and fed up with the way clubs are being treated in the modern GAA. We are now immune to the usual rhetoric of annual speeches from the top brass telling us of how important the volunteer ethos and the club is to the Association; we hear it all the time but yet nothing changes. We have continuously have had to put up with fixture issues since the introduction of the back door system and the reluctance of the provincial councils to streamline their individual championships.
We have had to listen to clubs year after year about having to play two and three championship games in a week just to get their championship played off in time before the start of the provincial club championship.
We ask our club players to do something we don’t ask intercounty players to do. Madness.
The CPA intend to change that. They are determined to change things in order for the club player to be treated with the same respect as their intercounty counterparts. They are not intent on taking over or influencing any other part of the organisation, only the welfare of the club player.
When the Gaelic Players’ Association (GPA) was set up in 1999 it took eleven years for them to be fully formally recognised as the players’ representative body by Congress in 2010. Hopefully the CPA will not be as long getting recognition.
Whether or not you or I agree with people setting up a representative group within the GAA, it does ask the question: Have people who run our games, both at national level and at county board level, lost touch with what really matters to those volunteers who year after year keep the wheels at grassroots level continuously turning?
They have seemingly become so engrossed in the bright lights of the intercounty scene and the fanfare that comes with it, that everything else is secondary. Instead of looking forward to the club season, it has become something that has just to be played and finished.
While it might be easy to suggest that the back door system is probably the main root of the problem, we might just be kidding ourselves to believe that. Of course it’s something bigger. The GAA in the last number of decades has become big business; there is a lot of money involved. A lot of people make a very nice living from the GAA, and then there is the television deals that have come our way.
Corporate GAA is now what matters and the biggest problem for the majority of clubs is they are not contributors to the party.
While at times we will shout about our traditionalist values and how much our past really means to us, we have let the organisation change and have never shouted stop. We complain but never step up to the mark and try and make that change.
Many would feel it would be like trying to swim against the tide but there seems to be an appetite for change now; everyone is getting fed up with the same spin and are prepared to help in order to get that change.
And change is what is needed, radical change, not shifting a few dates here or there, or not having replays; it’s about real change, the type that will send out a message to those at club level that says they matter.
People have this idea that it is only at adult level that this problem exists but take a look at the way some of our underage championships are run. Players from underage county teams and development squads are not always available to their clubs. Is this the road we want our games to take? Is it fair just to turn around and blame county managers? They’re given a job; they want to do that job as best as they can and will do whatever they can to get the best results. That’s the way it works, but at what cost to the player and to the club and who should be looking out for them?
Yes, clubs are represented at county board meetings; county boards are represented at provincial and national level but something seems to get lost when these meetings get underway and nothing ever gets changed that helps the club or the club player.
This is not the first time that I have talked about this issue and I doubt it will be the last but there is a desire for change by many club members. If those who hold the power do not sense that desire and make the necessary proposals to deal with the problem then we’re in bother.
I don’t envisage that the CPA will get a quick result. It’s the GAA; the wheel of change turns slowly but I don’t see this group being put off to easily. There is a lot of seasoned people involved who know the organisation inside out and know the pitfalls in front of them. They understand the challenge and are prepared. Hopefully this is not another false dawn for the club player.
“Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right”
- Oprah Winfrey.