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GPA survey reveals 'broad supp...
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GPA survey reveals 'broad support' for open draw in football championship

Stephen Doyle
Stephen Doyle

15:55 22 Jun 2020

The Gaelic Players Association (GPA) say there is a 'broad support' among its members for a 32-county open football championship this year.

It is one of several key points raised, in response to the GAA's return to play roadmap, in a letter from its chief executive officer Paul Flynn following a survey of 1,153 players - which could present a number of hurdles for Croke Park bosses.

Both hurling and football members surveyed would also prefer to play out some, or all where possible, of the remaining fixtures in the National Leagues before the start of the All-Ireland Senior Championships.

The open draw option in this year's football championship would only be favoured if the GAA decides to go ahead with a straight knockout competition.

Currently the GAA intends to begin the inter-county season a week after the completion of the club championships which are set to run from 31 July until 11 October.

That could pose a problem, as GPA members have outlined having a minimum 4-week window between the completion of club championship competition and the start of inter-county action as one of their "core priorities".

The letter says that there was "no clear consensus regarding competition structures for the 2020 season" but outline a number of options they intend to discuss with the GAA;

  • Football: Completion of the leagues followed by a championship where teams have a minimum of two games or (in the event time does not allow for this) completion of the leagues followed by a straight knockout championship.
  • Football: A 32-county open championship to ensure fairness across the board if the only available option is a knockout competition.
  • Hurling: Completion of all games/or significant league games followed by a championship where teams have a minimum of two games.  
  • Inter-county preparation: Players to be allowed to return to inter-county training having exited their club championships.

The majority of players want the the 2020 competitions completed within the calendar year and would like to see next year's inter-county season delayed to accommodate a "defined" off-season.

This is another one of the GPA's 'core priorities' outlined in the letter;

  • Competitions must be completed within the calendar year.
    • 76% of players back this approach.
  • A defined off-season must be set out before the 2021 season begins.
    • 72 % of players view this as being very important.
    • 75% of players believe the start of the 2021 season should be delayed to ensure this is accommodated.
  • Any inter-county training session organised before September 14th must be covered by the GAA Injury Benefit Scheme.
  • Minimum 4-week window between club championship completion and first inter-county game.

Flynn also notes that nearly a fifth of GPA members harbour fears over Covid-19 but has pledged the body's support for any player that chooses not to play this year.

He has also called on county boards and managers to support those players.

"While there is now government guidance around a safe return to team sports, we are aware that for some of you, your health and safety and that of your family and close friends remains a concern," Flynn wrote.

"While the majority of players feel it is safe to return, 17% of players have indicated they may not do so.

"We will work to resolve the issues which you have raised; however, while Covid-19 remains in the country, there will remain some risk.

"We will respect the decision of any players who opt out of playing in 2020.  Equally, we would call for understanding from county boards, managers, and supporters on this matter.

"We are committed to putting support structures in place for any player who makes this difficult decision, and we urge you to reach out to your GPA representative or directly to anyone on the GPA team."

 

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