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Siesmic move will change the sport forever

By John Campbell

Feelings of resignation and relief abound in almost equal measure in Ulster today following the Central Council decision to agree in principle to introduce the payment of grants to inter-county players.

The resignation emanates from what is essentially one of the most seismic moves in the history of the GAA since its founding in 1884 - players are now to receive cash for representing their counties, something that is still anathema to thousands of officials, supporters and even to some players themselves.

And the relief stems from the fact that the actual administration and payment of the grants will be overseen by a central GAA body in tandem with the Irish Sports Council.

Ulster Council PRO Michael Hasson admitted last night that the possible imposition of supervising the grant payments had been viewed with grave apprehension, even alarm, by many county boards.

"It would seem that a solution has been found to this aspect of the scheme that should satisfy county boards.

"Obviously many people are still unhappy with the whole grants concept but the die has been cast," said Hasson.

He stressed that the Ulster Council had harboured grave concerns in relation to the amateur ethos of the Association being endangered but added that chairman Tom Daly had been in the vanguard of a vibrant effort to ensure that this would not prove the case.

"We have benefitted from good leadership in this situation, I feel. We must be guided by Central Council and obviously the focus will now be on the administration of the grants in 2008," he said.

And the Ulster Council is keen to implement a further measure that will place the onus to clubs to safeguard their amateur status.

"We are planning to ask all clubs and county boards to have their annual accounts signed by the chairman, treasurer and secretary and to include a statement that the accounts are in keeping with the spirit and letter of Rule 11 which governs our amateur well-being," declared Hasson.

He made the points, though, that this will be a voluntary measure on the part of clubs and county boards.

The Central Council decisions were being digested by county boards and club officials over the week-end and those counties which still have to hold their annual Conventions will surely see the issues raised during discussions.

Meanwhile, Liam O'Neill, chairman of the Disciplinary Task Force and Pat Daly, the Croke Park Director of Games, made a presentation to Central Council in relation to some rule change proposals which are intended to address many of the disciplinary problems currently manifesting themselves in both football and hurling.

Among the changes proposed is the abolition of the current practice of ticking to be replaced by a new punitive system which will incorporate a player being sidelined and replaced by a substitute for 'repeat cautionable infraction.'

For offences of rough play and unsporting behaviour, it is proposed that players be directly sidelined and substituted while for straight red card offences, a player is sent off and no replacement permitted.Delegates decided that necessary decisions and rule alterations will take place at the Annual Congress in April.

Belfast Telegraph


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