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Sport is divided over new legal threat to payments

By John Campbell

The campaign to have the decision by Central Council to endorse the payment of annual grants to inter-county players could yet come unstuck.

A formal application for a legal hearing by the Disputes Resolution Authority against what is regarded as one of the most contentious decisions in the history of the GAA has already been made, the dynamic having initially been sparked in Ulster.

Nine signatories from various parts of the country, including two from the northern province, have lent their weight to the drive to overthrow the Central Council's rubber-stamping of what is viewed as a potentially divisive scheme.

Already GAA President Nickey Brennan has indicated that the hearing will take place early in the New Year although it had been originally hoped by the appellants that this might have taken place prior to Christmas.

But now it has emerged that the application, even though it has been framed by with support from the legal profession, could prove in vain.

It would appear to be the case that only units from within the GAA - clubs, county boards, provincial councils etc - can formally channel grievances through the Disputes Resolution Authority.

However, given the fact that the signatories are all members of the GAA and are affiliated to various counties, it might well be that their application will still carry some weight.

Over the course of the past three years the word 'technicality' has surfaced rather too frequently for comfort from the GAA's viewpoint in terms of having decisions, particularly those made in relation to the disciplinary process, rescinded.

Now there is the possibility that this latest application to come before the Disputes Resolution Authority - should it get that far, that is - may flounder on the rocks of a technicality.

The momentum generated by the anti-grants lobby has had its roots in Ulster but the fact that last week's meeting in Cavan engendered only a lukewarm response and that, as yet, no further meetings have been planned would appear to suggest that the Gaelic Players Association intensive battle for the grant payments will prove fruitful.

Indeed, GPA chief executive Dessie Farrell reiterated at the week-end that the payments should come into force next year and poured cold water on the theory that they may be deferred until 2009.

Former Dublin player Farrell has insisted that the GPA see no reason why the grants should not be paid out at the end of the 2008 championship season.

"It has always been our belief that this will be the case. Nothing has happened that should see a change," he declared.

Belfast Telegraph


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