| 9°C Belfast

Counties to make call on collecting club fees, says Ulster chief



Much to do: Ulster Council chief Brian McAvoy has outlined some of the work going on behind the scenes

Much to do: Ulster Council chief Brian McAvoy has outlined some of the work going on behind the scenes

Much to do: Ulster Council chief Brian McAvoy has outlined some of the work going on behind the scenes

Ulster Council chief executive Brian McAvoy has said it is up to individual county boards whether they wish to claim affiliation fees from clubs during the coronavirus pandemic.


With club grounds now ordered shut by GAA authorities and the gates padlocked, some county boards in Ulster have recently sent correspondence to their club units urging them to make insurance payments and affiliation fees.

Such a move is bound to prove unpopular. While the premises themselves require insurance, there is a question mark over the GAA Injury Benefit Fund.

Communication from the GAA sent this week read: "Any units that have not paid their 2020 GAA Injury Benefit Fund subscriptions are requested to pay their outstanding subscriptions owing immediately. Units that remain unpaid will be followed up."

However, cover has been suspended from March 13, when the GAA ceased all activities. Those that train during lockdown do so at their own risk of injury, the letter states.

McAvoy said: "All clubs are insured. There are a number of restrictions on the insurance in terms of the buildings themselves. The facilities have been insured but the GAA have put a stop on activity.

"We have social distancing regulations so we cannot use premises, but in terms of fixtures and fittings and things like that, everything is in place.

"The players' injury scheme has been fixed because there are no games taking place, so obviously it is not possible to make a claim on it at the minute."

However, what might leave a sour taste is the high price of affiliation fees, which all counties in Ulster are seeking.

"In relation to affiliation fees, that is a matter for each individual county," stated McAvoy.

"Some counties have decided not to collect, others have decided to collect and have said, 'Look, if we have to hold them over and put them into next year or give a refund…' - well, that's a matter for each individual county."

However, there is some confusion across the board. Back in March, the Mayo county board suspended levies for that month and April to alleviate financial pressure during the pandemic.

That was until last Sunday when secretary of Mayo GAA, Dermot Butler, notified clubs that they must pay their club levies, adding that this came as a directive from Croke Park.

McAvoy insists that participation is the chief concern among the GAA population.

"They are asking when can they get their walkways opened up, how can they get out and do some sort of training, or if it is safe to come back at all," he said.

"The main issues that seem to be concerning us… well, the first issue, the one that concerns us all, is the uncertainty. That's the same right across the board no matter where you go.

"Then obviously there are issues over communication and finance and those sort of things. These things are important, but the key issue is uncertainty. That's what we are finding everywhere."

The Ulster Council have had to shelve a number of courses and activities during the pandemic, but are still offering some web-based services.

"We have the likes of coaching courses and a number of health and wellbeing initiatives," said McAvoy.

"A number of things across different areas have had to be parked because we have had to furlough staff and obviously when you are furloughed you can't do any work.

"So that part is hard, it is regrettable but it is unfortunately where we are. There are a number of us who are doing our best to hold the fort so to speak and we are looking at a number of different areas.

"We have the core of the volunteer effort which is an ongoing thing. We have the staff who are still working and a lot of our funded staff are still working. They are preparing for the day they come back and their aim is to do a bit of forward planning on that.

"What we are seeing across the Association generally is a lot of webinars. A lot of them are led from Croke Park in fairness, where the staff are operating from because it is a different scheme.

"But you are seeing a lot of webinars and different initiatives. We are all getting a bit of a handle on IT. We had never really used Microsoft Teams a few weeks ago and I think I am becoming a bit of an expert now.

"The bigger picture is our planning of events - how we manage a return to training, a return to playing, that sort of thing. There is a lot of work going on behind the scenes in relation to that, a lot of discussions with other sporting organisations and government in relation to all that.

"So we are just making sure that our voice is being heard at the table and we are still fighting on behalf of our units for some support from the government. There is a lot going on."

Belfast Telegraph