Special Congress: Proposal B is just the start as GAA leaders consider future overhaul
It was one of the most anticipated days at Croke Park in recent memory, but this time the tension and drama stemmed from a healthy debate inside the conference room on the fifth floor of GAA headquarters. – not in the field.
At 11:36 a.m. BST on Saturday, John Horan, the association’s former president, opened a debate that seemed promised to end with changes in seismic proportions.
In total, more than 22 people pleaded for or against the merits of Motion 19, better known as Proposal B which, if passed, would have drastically changed the inter-county football season.
But in the end, after an hour-long debate, it turned out that Motion 19 did not get the 60% majority needed to pass, throwing the association back into its rather lackluster status quo.
GAA conventions can often come and go without even a shrug of key takeaways, but Saturday’s meeting unquestionably had the potential to tear up inter-county settlement.
Motion 19 proposed radical changes to the soccer championships, including breaking the link between the provincial competitions and the All-Ireland series, a radical departure from the traditional structure.
Under the new schedule, the provincial championships would have been held in February and March ahead of a league-based All-Ireland series with four divisions contested between April and July in a format that would hopefully limit the lags put in place. evidenced by Kerry and Dublin’s annual walk to the final stages of All-Ireland.
And while Proposal A – which would have changed the landscape with the introduction of four eight-team provincial championships – was flatly beaten in Congress with 90% of delegates voting against, it seemed like a growing sense of optimism around proposal B after the approval of GAA chairman Larry McCarthy, his predecessor Horan and association general manager Tom Ryan.
It turned out, however, that the change was too much radical for the 83 delegates who voted against.
Many saw it as an opportunity to usher in the big changes needed to breathe new life into the GAA flagship show.
This is not to say that Proposition B was flawless.
Before Congress, Ulster chief executive Brian McAvoy had expressed his reservations, arguing that its passage would have devalued provincial competitions.
His position was reflected by most of the Northern Province with eight of the nine counties speaking out against the motion on Saturday (Down was silent).
There was also certainly logic in McAvoy’s argument that the sixth-ranked team in Proposition B Division 1 would have left the championship while the Division 4 winners potentially advanced to the quarter-finals of Ireland.
But, even with its flaws, Proposition B still provided a blueprint for the future of inter-county football.
The current system is not working, there is no doubt about it. As Offaly GAA chairman Michael Duignan passionately pointed out during Saturday’s debate, the number of players who continue to invest a lot of time in training to only play one or two league games each year is a problem worthy of deep concern.
Change is always coming, of course. Next year, the less groundbreaking changes to the format will see the delayed Tailteann Cup added with just two All-Ireland qualifying rounds, down from four.
Such adjustments, however, will do little to satisfy those who pushed for a more radical upheaval – they will just have to be even more patient as the proposals were initially to be discussed at the annual remote conference. in February.
What is happening now?
With the dust settling on Saturday’s Spirit Meeting at Headquarters, it’s important to remember that Proposition B was just the start of the campaign for change. This was recognized by the high ranking officers of the association the day after the vote on Saturday.
“Having said over the week that I was hoping we would be bold, depending on the outcome, for me we weren’t bold enough that it didn’t go through,” said Larry McCarthy.
“But that said, we’re looking forward to a pretty changed landscape for the championship anyway.
“I expect we will revisit this very, very quickly.
“I’m not sure we’ll have anything for February [the 2022 Annual Congress], but there is an appetite for change in the majority and every speaker has said they would like the change.
“In many cases, this just wasn’t the kind of change that was proposed, but there is certainly a mandate for change, no doubt.”
Discussions about a football championship overhaul will certainly not dissipate. In fact, Saturday’s result should serve as a catalyst for further exploration of possible changes to the current system.
The future of the provincial championships remains the biggest obstacle to widespread change, while convincing the Ulster counties that their centerpiece will not be devalued by a league-based championship is certainly one of the biggest challenges of the GAA in the coming months.
But at least it looks like McCarthy is ready to engage in dialogue with Ulster officials after their staunch opposition to Proposal B.
“We will go back and talk to Ulster again based on what they said on the pitch,” he said.
While the status quo prevails for the time being, tweaking and fine-tuning the proposals in time for the February Congress or another Special Congress later next year seems certain, with a view to implementing a drastically overhauled championship structure in time. for 2023.
In GAA, big decisions always take time, even when the clamor for change is as intense as it is right now.
It was clear at Croke Park on Saturday.