Following the merger of the GPA with the WGPA in December of 2020, a number of key priorities were set out to allow for the full integration of the two associations into one. Equality was written into the new GPA Constitution as a core pillar of the association’s work. This would require work both internal, such as governance structures and how we can support a major additional membership and externally how we work with other stakeholders. The highlights of our work to date in this area are outlined below.
A new National Executive Committee was voted upon. The new NEC had a 60:40 male to female split reflecting our membership, with the four executive positions being split equally. Maria Kinsella (Carlow) and Matt O’Hanlon (Wexford) were elected as Co-Chairs of our association. The NEC manages the affairs of the players body, overseeing the development and implementation of strategic direction and policy.
Dónal Óg Cusack
A new GPA Board of Directors was also formed. The new board, with Professor Brian MacGraith as Chair, has a 50:50 male/female split. It comprises of 7 players and 5 independent directors. It has the ultimate legal responsibility for the GPA, covering areas such as finance, audit & risk and remuneration.
Dónal Óg Cusack
Given the strategic importance of Equality to our association, for the first time we appointed an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Manager. Former Tyrone footballer Gemma Begley, a founding member of the WGPA, took on the role and set about developing an equality strategy which has already delivered results in number of key areas.
4 new Welfare & Engagement Service Providers engaged, including 2 dedicated to female teams for the first time. The 4 WEOS are:
GPA staff functions aligned across male and female players. This meant that all staff transitioned to working equally on behalf of all members.
Joint Player of the Month Awards with PwC, who were already sponsoring the male version of the awards, coming on board as sponsor of the female monthly awards and committing to equal recognition and prizes
Equal Player of the Year Prizes as the GPA match the prize pot for male and female POTY awards
Equality pledge by sports agencies; Teneo & Wilson Hartnell agree to champion equal reimbursement for equal commercial work across male & female players
Equal Programme Provision
Third-Level Scholarships extended equally across all male and female players
Cardiac Screening and Custom-Fit Mouthguards extended to female players
Jim Madden Leadership Programme and Next Gen Leadership Programme both recruited equally
The GPA underwent a major facelift in 2021 to reflect our new membership and the fact that Equality has been added to our constitution as a new key pillar. Working with Connolly Partners and following an extensive consultation process, our new logo, featuring both a male and female player, and our new colour scheme were revealed. Red represents Representation, Green represents Development and Blue represents Welfare. Red, Green and Blue are the primary colours of light. White contains an equal balance of all colours of the spectrum so in turn it’s the combination of these colours which represent Equality.
Return to Play Event
As games resumed post Covid in 2021 the GPA held it’s first joint season launch incorporating players from all 4 codes. The purpose was to celebrate the beginning of a new season and also to place all 4 codes on the same platform.
2021 was a massive year for the GPA in terms of Representation. Having previously represented 2,500 male members, this pillar now accounted for 4,000 male and female members.
In what was a seminal year in the ongoing debate around competition structures in the GAA, the voice of the inter-county player was to the fore in the debate. The GPA membership overwhelmingly supported Proposal B which was up for consideration at a Special Congress of the GAA in October.
This proposal which was developed by the GAA Fixtures Review Taskforce, where the GPA was represented by Ronan Sheehan, offered significant change to the existing football championship structures. Over 70% of the male playing membership backed this proposal on the basis that it offered greater fairness, opportunities for development and much needed change to the existing structure.
Although narrowly defeated at Special Congress, the seeds of change were sewn with a revised structure backed by inter-county players successfully passed at GAA Congress 2022. Players can now look forward with optimism to a new format which will be introduced in the 2023 season. We thank all players who engaged in the debate and in particular to Down’s Ronan Sheehan for his tireless voluntary work as part of the Fixtures Review Taskforce for the last two years.
Camogie Season Structure
Players made their collective voice loudly heard when the Camogie Association detailed how the 2021 season would be set-out. This involved the playing of the inter-county league before a return to club action and then stepping back into inter-county action for the championship. The overwhelming majority of our members were not happy with the structure to be implemented for the season.
Following intensive and extensive consultation, the players made their position clear – they asked the Camogie Association to reconsider its plans outlining that they would not participate in the league should the structure be retained. To its credit the Camogie Association listened to the players and time was taken for further consultation with Camogie clubs across the country and a resolution was reached.
The ability of the collective voice of players to influence change was made abundantly clear.
Following the renewal of the GAA/GPA Protocol Agreement in 2020, it was agreed that the provisions in relation to the male players’ Charters would be reviewed separately due to the ongoing uncertainty with Covid-19. Throughout both 2020 and 2021 inter-county players agreed to concessions in provisions around travel expenses and gear in light of the uncertain financial outlook of the GAA with no crowds permitted at games.
The GPA and GAA have been actively engaged in discussions around a renewal of the Squad Charter provisions for the 2022 season with a more positive outlook and return to pre-Covid attendances at games and gate receipts revenues. A new centralised online expense system was successfully rolled out to all inter-county male squads in 2021 to deliver a more efficient administration of player expenses. The system delivered by Webexpenses has received very positive feedback since its introduction and will continue to streamline the process for claiming and payment of expenses in 2022.
ATHLETE BODY ENGAGEMENT
Engagement and support from the Players Association Community continued to provide a valuable resource to inform policy and programme development for GPA members in 2021.
Members of the GPA Player Development Team attended the World Players Association Player Development Conference in June with Player Services Manager Eamonn Murphy represented on the conference Steering Committee.
The GPA has been a project partner of the Erasmus Plus Project ProLead in partnership with EU Athletes to design a Leadership Programme to be delivered in eight countries across Europe. The programme has been modelled on the Jim Madden Leadership Programme which has been long seen as the flagship GPA Player Development Programme for the past eight years.
Road Safety Authority
In 2020 the GPA continued its partnership with the Road Safety Authority. Two campaigns were developed; The ‘Never Forget’ campaign which focussed on the wearing of seatbelts and the ‘Not Even One’ campaign which focussed on discouraging taking a drink and driving.
In 2020 the GPA entered into an Official Charity Partnership with Cliona’s Foundation. Cliona’s Foundation is a National charity with their office in Limerick that provides financial assistance directly to parents of children with life-limiting or chronic complex care needs across Ireland to help with the non-medical expenses related to caring for their child. The GPA have committed to helping raise awareness of Cliona’s Foundation and also to raising €100,000 in much needed funds.
Congratulations to the Champions
Our redesigned Player Development Programme – BEO360 was developed, designed and launched. This programme provides evidence based, best practice support to players across four key pillars – Lifeskills, Dual-career, Wellbeing and Transition.
The first online Rookie Camp for GPA members (male & female) with over 300 participants from all counties took place. All attendees received a DISC profile to support their personal development, strategies and tools to support their wellbeing and information about how to manage the demands and opportunities of a high-performance lifestyle. They were also offered the opportunity to avail of 1:1 personal development coaching.
TRANSITION PROGRAMME 2021
Due to Covid restrictions, the 2021 Transition Programme was hosted online with 25 players participating. The programme consisted of 4 online webinars, facilitated by Gary Keegan and Stephen Naughton, two expert leadership and high-performance coaches.
The programme was designed to support players in refocusing on their purpose and identity, empowering each individual to be proactive within their transition from Inter County sport, as well as their everyday lives.
New agreements put in place with 17 new colleges
26 partnerships in total by year’s end
70 individual scholarships available across all partnerships
GPA Jim Madden Leadership Programme
players graduated in January 2021 from 2020 Class
players graduated from the Special Purpose Award in Professional Leadership
players were selected to be part of the Class of 2021
Building & Boosting your Mental Fitness
Building and Boosting your Mental Fitness, a wellbeing webinar, was co-designed and delivered along with Sports Psychologist Dr Ciara Losty to GPA members, managers and backroom team. This was attended by 143 players and members of squad backroom teams and received positive feedback about how useful the webinar was in supporting players to look after their wellbeing.
Next Gen Leaders
The inaugural Next Gen Leaders Programme was launched and delivered with 12 young GPA members chosen to participate from 70 applicants.
- Online business development webinar series delivered
- 9 GPA members received business mentor support from a Google mentor
Established an MOU
with Cuan Mhuire
This enables us to provide quick and direct access to residential treatment care for GPA members requiring support for gambling, alcohol or drug addiction. The agreement includes a designated point of contact within Cuan Mhuire to support admission and follow-up care.
To further support improved mental health and wellbeing of our members, we partnered with Silvercloud, an easy to use and scalable digital platform with a variety of wellness programmes that all GPA members can access. It is designed to help improve and maintain wellbeing by addressing underlying issues that can have negative impact. The self-sign up url for GPA members to access SilverCloud is: https://gpa.silvercloudhealth.com/signup/. Create an account and enter the access code ‘GPA’ to get access to the platform.
Load Management: Train Harder &
Smarter Online Webinar
Ongoing restrictions presented by the Covid-19 in 2021, in addition to new structural changes to the fixture calendar, meant that the implementation of effective player load and injury prevention strategies was vitally important for the 2021 season.
With this in mind, the GPA partnered with Dr. Tim Gabbett, applied sport scientist and high-performance expert, to host a one-day workshop exclusively for the inter-county backroom teams.
The overall goal was to provide expert led guidance to help create a safer and more efficient training environment for players. The workshop focused on areas such as progressive overload training and rehabilitation programs, effective training load monitoring, strategic daily and weekly training plans and injury risk reduction.
The workshop was attended by 105 participants.
GPA & GAA Concussion Baseline
Testing Pilot Programme
The Concussion Baseline Testing Pilot programme was designed and implemented to ensure that a players receive the optimum medical treatment for a concussion injury sustained during play or training.
The pilot programme will help provide the GPA & GAA vital information in the prevalence of concussion injury across all codes and in turn improve the care for players who suffer from concussion injury.
Teams were involved in the Pilot – 9 men’s and 9 women’s, across all codes
Players were tested overall, with a large geographic spread
OIREACHTAS PAPER ON PLAYER ABUSE
We were invited to provide a written submission to the Joint Committee on Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sport and Media on the elimination of any and all abuse directed toward Inter County players. 725 players took part in this research (52% female versus 48% male) which was carried out by means of an anonymous, online survey.
To see the paper and its findings, please follow the link here
Players took part
IN 2021, WE DELIVERED 89% OF EXPENDITURE TO PLAYER DEVELOPMENT AND WELFARE PROGRAMMES
Government Grants 49%
GAA Core Funding 37%
Membership & Benevolent 1%
PLAYER DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMMES/PLAYER WELFARE 89%
OPERATING COSTS 11%