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GAA players will be £1,500 better off with funds boost

By Declan Bogue

Inter-county footballers and hurlers can individually benefit from an extra £1,500 per annum, as part of the additional funding that the GAA will provide the Gaelic Player's Association in a game-changing deal.

A new annual payment of £5.2million has been agreed by the sporting body to the player's group, providing a significant hike on mileage expenses and introducing new benefits such as a 'nutrition allowance.'

In plain terms and for the purpose of simplifying the funding increase, we take the example of a Fermanagh player, working or studying in Belfast. With two weekly trips home for training, over the course of 39 weeks of the year, their annual baseline fuel allowance will now jump from £5,354 to £6,959, liable to increase for journeys to games and additional training sessions.

While mileage rates and payment has been a traditional battleground between county boards and players - with players occasionally being left out of pocket or having to wait for months for unpaid expenses - the increase in the rate will be met by the GAA centrally.

With such a bold announcement, the fear is for other projects requiring funding. However, GAA President Aogan O'Fearghail has insisted that special projects - such as the one that Antrim are currently committed to with a discussion document to be presented in October to increase the number of coaches in Belfast - will remain unaffected.

"It shouldn't affect our ongoing plans and budgets that are currently in place. This is an investment in the GAA and an acknowledgement by the GAA of the key role that our players make," O'Fearghail explained.

For the first time, the players' body will receive a percentage of commercial revenues in the region of 15% which will be built into the estimated £5.2m figure.

Commercial revenues include media and sponsorship money, along with other avenues such as the recent Bruce Springsteen and Beyoncé concerts, but will not include the GAA's biggest earner, gate receipts.

Arguments have been made that players deserve a cut of gate receipts for providing the entertainment, but this arrangement means the association manage to circumnavigate that scenario.

There was, however, acknowledgement of how players have grown the commercial capacity of the Association from Director-General, Paraic Duffy.

"Gate receipts have always been the main source of income for the GAA, the growth of commercial revenues has been a very recent thing," he said.

"We recognise the important role of the players in the commercial aspect, how that's changed, whereas gate receipts back to year one have always been part of the GAA. Commercial revenue growth has relied very much on the players, through the inter-county scene."

With commercial revenue providing the honey pot for increased mileage and funding for GPA activities, it is unlikely that the GAA will turn their back on any broadcasting deals, not least with Sky TV, which has attracted strong criticism.

The GPA were also pleased with the new 'nutrition allowance,' which amount to over £1million, annually.

Limerick hurler Seamus Hickey, Dublin footballer Paul Flynn and Kilkenny hurler Richie Hogan were part of the GPA negotiating team to broker the deal.

Hickey commented: "It is an element of preparation that we never had to engage with before and I suppose when you are asking did we cost it and did research on it.

"We did a number of case studies with a number of players."

GPA Chief Executive Dessie Farrell also talked about the potential to do more in the way of their Player Development programmes, with additional funding.

"One of the issues that has emerged for us, over the last number of years, is the increased demand from players for programmes," he said.

"In some instances, some of those programmes are over-subscribed, so the additional revenue will be very welcome."

Belfast Telegraph


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