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GPA’s Proposed Reform Of Championship Structures

The Gaelic Players Association has outlined how it would reform the Football Championship.

At an event held to announce the link up between the GPA and the Childhood Cancer Foundation in early June, GPA CEO, Dessie Farrell, declared that, ‘I just firmly believe the championship structure needs to change’, adding ‘It’s our premier competition and I don’t think we’re maximising the potential within it’.

Farrell used the event to inform the gathered press that the players organisation were ‘going to bring forward a particular model that we’ve been working on ourselves… we’re going to bring a proposal to Central Council then in the course of the next few weeks or months, depending on the timing of Central Council meetings, to attempt to initiate some sort of a debate’.

Yesterday details of the first draft of the GPA’s proposal were published by The 42.

The GPA have proposed that the Championship be compromised of 32 teams, divided into eight groups of four teams. The seeding for the groups would be determined by National League standings for that year.

The National League would be played between early February and end of March. In order to accommodate such a start date, the GPA plan to abolish the pre season provincial competitions. The league would comprise of eight rounds, with no semi final or finals, enabling the competition to conclude early. Score difference and a head to head record would be used to separate teams finishing on equal points. The GPA hope that by linking a county’s final league position to it’s championship seeding, it will create a more competitive and higher profile competition.

Following the conclusion of the League, the provincial Championships would be run off between the beginning of April and the first weekend in May. However they would be stand alone competitions that would have no bearing on the All Ireland Series.

A draw would then take place for the group stage of the All Ireland Championship. The group stage would comprise of thirty two teams divided into eight groups of four, as already mentioned, the seeding for which will be determined by National League standings.

The eight groups would be divided into two pools of four, with each pool playing on alternate weekends. For example, the fixtures involving groups 1-4 would be played one weekend and games involving 5-8 the following. This would allow for extra TV coverage and increase the profile of the GAA.

The eight teams that finish top of their groups would qualify for the last sixteen of the All Ireland Series. They would be joined by a further eight teams, after the sixteen sides who finished second and third in the groups stage, played off against each other.

The teams forming the last sixteen would then compete in a knock out series, culminating with the All Ireland Final taking place on the first Sunday in September.

Replays would not form part of the knock out phase, instead extra time would be used to determine a winner. If teams remain level following extra time, the GPA intend to introduce a golden score.

The GPA argue that their would ensure, that the majority of Championship fixtures would take place between July and October. Therefore allowing individual County Championships the space and time needed for them to be run off. In this regard they point to the creation of free weekends during April and May for such games to be played.

Despite condensing the period in which the Championship is played, the number of fixtures would increase from 64 to 91, furthering the profile of the Football Championship.

When Farrell first announced the GPA’s intention in June, he stated ‘My personal view is that any changes that come about that still retain the provincial structure are only moving the deck chairs around’. Maintaining the provincial championships is therefore a compromise. Indeed it was inter county players themselves who asked that they be retained.

Nevertheless under the GPA’s proposed structure they seem out of place, relegated behind the League and Championship. It would therefore be difficult to see the Provincial Councils backing such a reform.

One of the main talking points from this years championship has been the one sided nature of many fixtures. Under the GPA’s proposal, this would continue, as top seeded teams from division one would be grouped together with sides from division four.

Finally, although the GPA’s system would mean that a county would play a maximum of seven games in order to win the All Ireland, it is doubtful that clubs will appreciate the number of inter county games increasing from 64 to 91.

It is worth remembering though, that the GPA’s proposal remains at a draft stage. Therefore they retain the ability to alter their suggestions.

Nevertheless they make fine food for thought.


Alan Drumm, Pundit Arena

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Author: The PA Team

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