Dónal Óg Cusack
GPA & WGPA MERGER
December 14th 2020 saw a new chapter start in the history of our Association. At independent Extraordinary General Meetings of the GPA and the WGPA players voted to take the steps necessary to come together as one players’ body representing 4,000 inter-county players.
It was both the culmination of two year’s work and the start of a whole new era for the newly combined Association. As such, this is the final time the GPA will publish an Annual Report independently of our new members formerly of the WGPA.
The newly combined GPA is working for the entire membership across the pillars of Representation, Development, Welfare and Equality, which has been added to the GPA constitution as part of the merger process.
It is our belief, backed by the near unanimous vote of our members that this move will benefit all players and help raise standards across the board. Work began immediately in December to integrate the operations, services and finances of the two player associations. Immediate priorities centred on:
This is only the beginning!
In November of 2020, following intense and prolonged negotiations, the GPA and the GAA jointly announced that a new protocol agreement had been reached for the next 4-years (2021 to 2024), having been approved by our National Executive Committee and by the GAA’s Central Council. It was a hugely significant and positive agreement for inter-county players and the long-term nature of this agreement gives certainty and security to our association.
The new funding agreement encourages the two associations to work in partnership to maximise commercial revenues, which in turn allows us to meet our key objectives i.e. enhanced investment in the off-field lives of inter-county players. The agreement gives us:
The GPA is a bottom-up organisation, led by players for players. Continued and increased player engagement will always be a priority for the association.
The challenges presented by Covid-19 restrictions resulted in a reduced ability to complete many of our important face to face player engagements throughout 2020. However, despite these challenges, the GPA staff team and wider association worked proactively to innovate and find new ways of engaging our membership. Many of our support and development programmes were quickly adapted to be provided through online platforms and the use of technology was recognised as an excellent opportunity to reach the wider membership in a unique and efficient way.
We of course welcome the return of meeting players face to face, and hope it will be possible very soon, but we have also recognised the excellent engagement opportunities technology provides. Going forward we will look to utilise technology to further enhance our member engagement, as a reinforcing support to our integral in person contact.
New Engagement Strategy
New digital channels
a number of squads
Major set piece
engagement plus regular proactive check-ins
Engagement with our members underpins the work we do across our pillars. In particular in 2020 players were regularly engaged on the following hugely important areas:
covid-19 return to play protocol
gpa shorter season proposal
fixture review taskforce – new competition structure proposals
2020 lower tier hurling competition structure
3 REPS AND
The 2020 playing season was, as we all know, severely interrupted by the Covid-19 Pandemic. From the initial stages of its impact on Ireland we consulted with players around their needs during what was a very unsettling and, for many, a very difficult time. We tailored our supports and services in light of that feedback to ensure members’ key priorities were catered for. We also adapted to the use of technology to deliver those supports and services remotely through digital platforms and channels. What was also clear was that players who previously had limited time on their hands due to training and playing commitments, now had more time to dedicate to their development than would normally be the case.
Individual Players Supported
INDIVIDUAL HURLERS SUPPORTED
INDIVIDUAL FOOTBALLERS SUPPORTED
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GPA JIM MADDEN LEADERSHIP PROGRAMME
- 31 players graduated in January 2020 from 2019 Class
- 19 players graduated from the Special Purpose Award in Professional Leadership
- 33 players were selected to be part of the Class of 2020
TIME 2 THRIVE WEBINAR
- Webinar series focussing on helping players make best use of their time during lockdown
- Focussed on: Mindset during uncertainty, nutrition with reduced training load, challenges and opportunities in injury and performance, financial wellbeing and sleep and wellbeing for athletes
- Presented by GPA Personal Development Coach, Declan O’Connell, Dr Brendan Egan (DCU), Enda King (Sports Surgery Clinic), Seán Cavanagh (Chartered Accountant) and Michelle Biggins (Chartered Physio and PhD Candidate)
NEXT GEN LEADERS
- Aims to engage and connect passionate young GPA and WGPA members with the people and resources necessary to influence positive change within our games and our society.
- 12 young leaders selected from over 80 applicants • Full brochure available here: https://bit.ly/38tKhDr
- Covid-19 has provided players with the opportunity to explore alternative avenues and interests, entrepreneurship being one
- The GPA aims to support players in identifying their idea, developing a business plan, supporting them with subject matter expert advice and then into launching their business
- We’re with them every step of the way
- New agreements put in place with Trinity College Dublin, Mary Immaculate College in Limerick
- 9 partnerships in total by year’s end
- 27 players benefitted from these partnerships
GPA GOOGLE DIGITAL GARAGE
- Practical advice and mentoring from Google experts to help small businesses grow and enhance their online presence
- 10 spots per quarter
In a year like no other it was more important than ever that the voice of the players was heard. Major issues and decisions were required and it was vital that the opinion of the players was represented clearly and strongly to the GAA. These decisions were as wide ranging as the structure for the inter-county season going forward to returning to play during a global pandemic to matters around anti-doping. What was most encouraging was the willingness among our members to have their voices heard and air their opinions. This gave the GPA a clear mandate on numerous matters when engaging with stakeholders such as the Covid Advisory Committee.
Implementation of Shorter/Split Season
- Engagement with Fixture’s Review Taskforce
- Consultation with players
- Establishment of player subcommittee
COVID-19 RETURN TO PLAY
- Representation on GAA Covid Adivsory Committee
- Development of return to play guidelines
- Engagement with other players associations
- Review and monitoring of guidelines/implementation of testing procedures
Implementation of centralised online expenses system
- Over 2,500 players completed anti-doping education with details submitted to Sport Ireland
- Development of improved anti-doping education system for roll out end 2020
- 3 motions proposed relating to Anti-Doping Education, Optimal Player Contact time and Confidential Disclosure Platform • All 3 motions were passed with over 96% support
- Confidential Disclosure Platform was established in late 2020 to monitor closed season and is being utilised to monitor Covid-19 restrictions and recommendations breaches
ENGAGEMENT WITH ATHLETE BODIES
- Partner on PROLead Project with EU Athletes to develop an international leadership programme (based on Madden)
AS ALWAYS, the welfare of our members was a key PRIORITY AND 2020 BROUGHT THIS ASPECT OF OUR WORK INTO FOCUS MORE THAN EVER. The impact of Covid-19 was far reaching and we needed to ensure we were providing the necessary support structures for inter-county players. This was carried out while also putting in place longer term plans to ensure we are aware of our members’ needs as we emerge from the pandemic.
GPA/WGPA Wellbeing Support Text Line
Launched in September in partnership with 50808 and Shout 85258
Text GPA or WGPA to 50808 (ROI) Text GPA or WGPA to 85258 (NI)
Confidential support available 24/7/365
MENTAL HEALTH FIRST AID TRAINING
2-day training completed by all GPA staff, Player Engagement Officers and Personal Development Coaches Certified by Mental Health First Aid Ireland
- improves attitudes towards people with mental health difficulties
- reduces stigma and improves knowledge
- improves people’s confidence in providing help while also increasing the likelihood of advising people to seek professional help
MENTAL FITNESS WEBINAR SERIES
2-part Mental Fitness and Wellbeing webinar series was developed and launched.
Part 1 - Mental Fitness and Mindset
- Richie Sadlier in conversation with Alan Kerins
- Elite sports stars discussing challenges and opportunities of life during and after the game
- 65 attendees
Part 2 – Leading with Courage
- Tony Griffin in conversation with Ruairí McKiernan
- Explored how we can cultivate courage in tough times to enhance a sense of peace, purpose and wellbeing
- 63 attendees
Covid focussed supports
BEYOND COVID-19: UL RESEARCH STUDY
The GPA and WGPA facilitated and supported the participation of members in a research study entitled Beyond Covid-19: Cross-Sport Survey Exploring the Impact of Covid-19 on Elite Athletes conducted by a Research Group based at the University of Limerick.
The research also involved Irish Olympic athletes and professional rugby players.
The findings from the research will be used to inform the development of supports and resources for players post Covid-19 and will be published in an academic journal in conjunction with data from other high-performance environments in both Ireland and the UK.
This aligns closely with our aim to consistently develop supports and resources for players that are evidence-based and informed by best practice.
219 people attended our second annual player welfare conference – Balance 2020 took – which place online on 12th September 2020. Its theme was Creating an Optimum Training and Playing Environment for Players.
Expert national and international speakers who presented best practice from both academic and field-based perspective, on the holistic approach of preparing athletes to perform at optimum level.
Balance 2020 was hosted by the GPA’s Player Safety and Welfare Committee
Dr Jim O’Donovan
Dr Ciaran McDonald
Dr. Brendan Egan
The appointment of a new Head of Communications (Kieran McSweeney) in November of 2019 allowed for the strategic planning and implementation of GPA communications to be brought back ‘in-house’ during 2020.
Given how the 12-months panned out this was hugely important to the Association as never before had communicating with our key stakeholders, particularly our membership, been as important.
made all the
promotion of the
The Players’ Voice is now a consistent tool used by our Association to address key issues pertaining to players.
Presented by Kieran McSweeney and GPA Player Engagement Manager and Laois Footballer Colm Begley, to date it has addressed issues such as transitioning out of the inter-county game and into retirement, changing career path, racism in Irish society, business development and mental health.
All episodes are available on:
We would like to thank all the players who made these projects possible and so successful. You are having a direct, positive impact on people’s lives.
Thank you too to all of you who took part in various initiatives across 2020, be it as part of your squads or individually, to raise money or awareness of projects and campaigns within your own communities.
You have lived up to your positions as role models and leaders.
HSE & Government Public Health Messaging Support
From the very beginning of the Covid-19 outbreak in Ireland inter-county players and former players from rights across the island have used their influence to educate the public around the steps we can all take to reduce the risk to ourselves, our families, our friends and our communities. The impact players have had in this regard has been acknowledged by the Department of the Taoiseach, now former Minister for Health Simon Harris and by the HSE. One example of the work undertaken is the #HomeTeam video which was produced by the GPA to encourage people to adhere to the prevailing restrictions on movement.
The importance of looking after our mental health has really come to the fore during the pandemic. We teamed up with Pieta to spread awareness around the importance of taking steps to look after this aspect of our lives. The R.E.S.T. campaign coincided with Pieta’s Sunrise Appeal, the fundraising initiative which replaced Darkness Into Light given the restrictions brought about by Covid-19. Players from all 32 counties supported the R.E.S.T. campaign via their social channels
All-Ireland FIFA20 Charity Tournament
The GPA teamed up with Joanne O’Riordan and Insomnia Dublin to run the All-Ireland FIFA20 Charity Tournament on the May Bank Holiday Weekend. Representatives from all 32 counties took part with provincial competitions followed by All-Ireland semi-finals and the All-Ireland final. Games were streamed live with well-known broadcasters including Marty Morrissey lending their support and time on commentary duty. Laois hurler Eric Kileen came out on top but more importantly all money raised went to frontline workers across the island.
SELF HELP AFRICA
ONE MILLION TREES CAMPAIGN
The GPA partnered with Self Help Africa on their One Million Trees campaign. One Million Trees is a local-to-global initiative that saw development charity Self Help Africa plant ten new trees in Africa and one native tree in Ireland for every €5 that is raised for the campaign. The aim of the campaign was simple: plant 1,000,000 trees in Africa while at the same time planting 100,000 trees here in Ireland. We are delighted to report that these targets have been met with 1,000,000 trees having been planted across 5 countries in Africa: Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi and Uganda. Congratulations to our partners in Self Help Africa.
National Walking Day
Two Player Ambassadors – Dublin’s Kevin McManamon and Galway’s Niamh Kilkenny – were involved in the promotion of National Walking Day as part of European Week of Sport 2020. Both participated in individual videos highlighting their favourite walking routes. This project was undertaken in partnership with Local Sports Partnerships and Sport Ireland.
For the past seven years the GPA have held annual former players lunches (for hurlers and footballers), honouring the legends of the past on the eve of the All-Ireland finals.
Unfortunately, we were unable to deliver a face-to-face event in 2020, but we were able to celebrate the legends of the game digitally with the production of two videos and also the production of two special episodes of The Players’ Voice podcast.
IN 2020, WE DELIVERED 81% OF NET REVENUES TO PLAYER DEVELOPMENT AND WELFARE PROGRAMMES
Government Grants 47%
GAA Core Funding 37%
Membership & Benevolent 1%
Programmes/Player Welfare 89%
Operating Costs 8%
Other Programmes 2%
Organisational Development 1%