Jarlath Burns promises to ‘stop the runaway train’ of intercounty team budgets

GAA Congress: Incoming president will establish a new amateur status committee

Jarlath Burns became the 41st president of the GAA at annual congress in Newry on Saturday afternoon. In a wide-ranging inaugural address, he announced that he would establish a new amateur status committee, which he expects to propose significant changes to the budgets of intercounty teams.

This echoes a current and frequently raised concern. This year, spending on intercounty teams is estimated to have reached €40 million and has become a massive drain on association resources.

“The senior intercounty game is becoming a financial noose around the necks of county boards as they seek new and innovative ways of giving their teams that little edge over their rivals. And at the end of the year, there can still only be a very small number of captains holding the cups, regardless of how much money has been spent on preparing county teams.

“It is wrong to apportion blame for this because we are all at fault and at the same time, we are all victims of the natural desire to be better, faster and stronger.


“When we hand our team to the new manager, we do so in the full expectation that he is going to deliver – promotion, or a provincial title, or even an All-Ireland, and when it goes wrong, they get the blame.

“Of course, in the environment where our managers operate, they will want to create a high-performance culture that will get the best out of their available players.

“And the GPA are the representatives of the players. They will argue that if managers are going to ask players to train six times a week, they will rightly demand the players get expenses to pay for their travel plus whatever bit of gear comes along with that.

“Along with the sense of helplessness felt by county chairs and treasurers, is the feeling that we have gone too far and can’t go back. And we all know we have to. Because all of this falls under the single most important value we have. The Amateur Status.

“Our players are no longer amateurs. Of course, like us, they don’t get paid for their efforts, but that’s where it ends. We have never properly stipulated what an amateur status looks like in the modern world. The last person to examine it was Peter Quinn back in 1996.

“I have established a new amateur status committee which will look at all aspects of county expenditure and I expect them to propose significant changes to budgets for county team expenditure. The problem is ours. So has the solution to be.

“We owe it to the counties with lower demographics who are really struggling to make ends meet. And I promise, I will do my utmost to stop the runaway train that is the preparation of county teams.”

Although an Ulster winning captain with Armagh, Burns denied that he would be a ‘football president’.

“I see myself as neither a football or hurling man, but a GAA man. I hail from south Armagh – hardly a hurling stronghold and it is not through any fault of my own, though a matter of considerable regret, that I never got the chance to play this amazing game.”

Having praised the recent work of the recent Hurling Review Group, he outlined his plans for the game.

“I aim to build on this by working hard with communities to develop hurling capacity where the demographics are healthy and there is a will to do it. This is a very long-term project and will take many years to produce any meaningful change, but we need to stick with it and believe we can achieve it.”

He also announced that he would establish a Football Review Group to take a considered look at the problems of the big-ball game.

“I am not going to go into the minutiae of what is wrong or how we can solve it here. But I will say the following, 2025 will be a rule-change congress. We have asked for your proposals to come in from county conventions in 2023. This was a good idea.

“I have established a Football Review Group to completely take every aspect of the game apart and put it all together again with a view to making Gaelic football a more enjoyable spectacle to watch and play.

“As a former chair of the Standing Committee on Playing Rules, I can say I do not envy their task, because if I took 20 of you into a room and asked you your opinions, there would be 20 different perspectives on even what the problem is, never mind the solution.

“However, the sight of endless passing across the half-forward line, without any risks being taken, before the ball is channelled back to a midfielder who repeats the process from the other side of the pitch, is not what Gaelic football should be. I think we can all agree on that.”

Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times