The Gaelic Players Association has submitted a motion for consideration at GAA Congress on February 26th urging the GAA to take proactive, meaningful and swift action to expedite integration with the LGFA and the Camogie Association.

The division of the three sporting codes is rooted in history but possibly not even known about among most people that are members of a GAA club and bringing up sons and daughters to play the games.

They wear the same kit, play on the same pitches, rally under the same club banner and cheer the loudest for whichever one of the County teams are going best at the time.

Under the hood

Under the hood though the fact of them being three separate organisations presents issues in terms of administration, facilities and more.

Croke Park was built and continues to be managed under the auspices of the GAA and while the All Irland Ladies Football and Camogie Finals are played there it is an arrangement that requires permission to be sought and granted.

Sponsorship arrangements around the competitions are handled separately though last year the Camogie Association entered into an agreement with the GAA to benefit from their larger team and reach.

Decisions on calendars and playing rules, and contracts with broadcasters are all handled separately and the promotion of the games is also done by each of the three bodies, largely in isolation from the other.

Gradual

At the national level, there has been a gradual coming together in many of these key areas. There are an increasing number of areas in which cooperation is a given and has proved effective.

The CEO’s of the Ladies Gaelic Football Association and the Camogie Association both sit on the GAA’s decision making Management Committee.

The further you go from the centre though the more the administrative differences become apparent.

Three individual registrations (and fees) are payable for a player to join, one for a boy and two for a girl that is playing both codes.

The calendar of the thousands of club and underage fixtures is integrated in most counties for the boys and not for the girls. Boys will never be expected to play two games at a weekend, while that is often the case for the girls.

Committees

There are separate committees within clubs and separate county boards and executives across each of the three codes. All are filled by volunteers who have given over a fair portion of their lives towards the sport they love and who would face the prospect of substantial change should a full merger take place.

For some, it would be a blessed relief to reduce the time, energy and costs of running everything in parallel. For others though it would be a step too far with a ceding of control to others who may be related but are not seen as the same.

It would be wrong to dismiss the concerns of those who feel giving up the control and influence they have at present. But is necessary to have the conversation.

The GAA might be the most comfortable because it is the largest, with more players, more facilities, more income and more of a reach. In a corporate sense, it may feel as though it will be a natural leader in a united Gaelic Games family. But in a world where equality is a critical measure of the health of an organisation, the change would come.

Distribution

At a grassroots level the distribution of pitches, match times, fundraising money and more would have to change from landlord and tenant to shared accommodation of equals.

Pushing that argument in the two and a half weeks between now and when the GAA Congress sits to debate the motion will be challenging but the vote of the delegates will be equally so.

The motion from the Gaelic Players Association reads:

The GAA shall prioritise integration with the LGFA and Camogie Association in order to jointly ensure equal investment, recognition and opportunity for all genders to play all sports in the Gaelic Games family.

That is a hard objective to argue against and with 95 per cent of the Gaelic Players that operate themselves under one umbrella in favour, there is clearly a desire for change.

The statement from the GPA goes on that “We believe that as the Gaelic Games family is the largest sporting and community entity in Irish life, it has an unmatched capacity to herald a cultural change in the experience of girls and women in sport and in the communities that they live in.”

“This change begins with a reflection on recognition for women in Gaelic Games. This includes how women are represented in local and national leadership, the level of support and visibility for women in coaching and officiating, the investment and development of female players, and the acknowledgement of the contribution of women in Gaelic Games. Critically, this process must be led nationally by the leadership of our three NGB’s.”

“It is our belief that we can best contribute to societal change for girls and women by calling for systemic change within Gaelic Games and equality can best be delivered by one combined governing body for Gaelic games.”

Template

If the administrators want to look at an integration that has worked well under similar circumstances, the new Golf Ireland has the template.

It is about an awful lot more than a motion at a congress or a signing into the rules but it is possible.

“The spirit of this motion is about action for gender equality in sport and bringing the Gaelic family together,” said GPA CEO Tom Parsons.

“It is about showing women and girls, whether they are involved in Gaelic games or not, that the biggest sporting and cultural organisation in Ireland values you every bit as much as it does your brothers, partners, nephews and husbands.”

“We appreciate and respect the three NGBs have been on a journey towards closer links and closer cooperation. What players are asking for now is that the GAA expedite this process, in a spirit of consultation with the LGFA and Camogie Association. I believe this change will have the power to unite us and ignite Gaelic games.”

“The outcome players want to see is a road map that sets out clear actions and timelines that leads to one national organisation overseeing our games. Players believe in today’s world we must deliver equal opportunity, recognition and investment regardless of gender and that this motion supports the GAA mantra ‘Where we all belong’.”

It will certainly be one of the more watched and noted discussions that takes place on the floor of Congress when it takes place in Mayo on February 26th.