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CPA tell Duffy to take a step back as fixtures row escalates

By Declan Bogue

The Club Players Association have called on GAA Director-General Páraic Duffy to 'park his proposals' on Championship reform.

Warning him that problems relating to the fixtures calendar would be locked in for another three seasons, they claimed that "by then it could be too late. This needs sorted now".

The timing of the announcement represents a line drawn in the sand between the Club Players Association and the GAA, coming as it does with Duffy due to unveil his Director-General's Annual Report in Croke Park this morning.

Since the publication of Duffy's proposals to reform the All-Ireland Championships, with All-Ireland finals brought back a number of weeks and a condensed inter-county season, the Monaghan man has been drumming up support and would have been hopeful of getting through next month's Congress.

Opposition to the proposals mainly centre around the notion of a mini-league at the quarter-final stage of the All-Ireland Football Championship, with criticism that it would entirely stop all football in the competing counties for a solid month.

Early notice of the intentions of the CPA was served at the launch of the organisation on January 9 at Ballyboden St Enda's clubhouse when CPA Secretary Declan Brennan was explicitly asked if they supported Duffy's proposals and replied: "We don't think it goes far enough and we really, really think there needs to be radical changes. I can see where Páraic Duffy is coming from, step by step and make small changes and the extra-time and no replays and things like that, that's all positive.

"But at the end of the day there's a lot of monetary interests here and they're trying to create a buzz around the August weekend to bring in money for the association."

CPA Chairman Micheál Briody said in the statement released to the media yesterday: "We are calling on Páraic Duffy to park his proposals pending proper consultation. We have had a very positive response since our official launch.

"Over 15,000 club players have registered so far. Their expectation is that the GAA will step up to the plate and address the fixtures issue for all players. If the current proposals are passed, there will be no realistic possibility to change until the 2019 season at the earliest. By then it could be too late. This needs sorted now."

The statement continued: "We respect Páraic's position over the last nine years as Director-General and his immense experience as a professional GAA official.

"However we cannot support the proposals on three main grounds:

- They do not fully take on board the need for an agreed fixtures programme for club players, or take account of legitimate concerns raised including club player welfare and well being, holidays and closed season.

- They are detrimental towards hurling, and in their presented form are creating an unwelcome imbalance in the Association, especially at a time when hurling nationally needs renewed focus. Both games must be given parity of esteem. This is non-negotiable.

- The proposals pre-date the establishment of the Club Players Association. The view expressed to us by club players, who are the majority playing population, is that club fixtures need to be fully considered in any proposals going forward."

The CPA statement notes that the organisation is writing to all county boards this week in an effort to gain support for motions to Congress coming from Wexford and Tipperary for the organisation to be granted official recognition.

In the meantime, they are appealing for the establishment of a "Fixtures Think Tank, to meet, take on board and consult fixtures experts in the GAA...

"Their remit will be to report back within a fixed timeframe with a programme and principles that create uniformity," the statement concluded.

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