Westmeath hurler Davy Glennon receives medical attention for an injury during the recent Allianz NHL Division 1 clash against Cork in Páirc Uí Chaoimh. PHOTO: EÓIN NOONAN/SPORTSFILE

Clubs vote for 25pc levy to cover cost of income losses

Westmeath GAA has voted to introduce a 25 percent levy on clubs in order to reinstate the loss of wages cover in the player injury fund.

This would see the player injury fund premium rise from €1,000 to €1,250 per annum for all of Westmeath’s 47 clubs. It was one of a number of options made available to clubs by which players could be covered for loss of wages owing to injuries sustained during Gaelic games activities.

At an unscheduled meeting of Westmeath GAA’s county committee held online last Wednesday night, Tom Hunt (Mullingar Shamrocks), Westmeath’s Central Council delegate presented two options to club delegates as to how the restoration of loss of wages cover could proceed.

The cover had been paused for 2021, but Central Council requested top Croke Park officials to explore the possibility of restoring it, and left it to clubs to decide how best to move forward.

Dr Hunt outlined two options available to clubs. Option 1 would see the imposition of a 25 percent levy, which would be paid directly to the GAA by clubs. He described this as “the friendliest option” and would result in no extra administration.

Option 2, an independent insurance policy negotiated by the GAA and underwritten by club insurance, came in two parts. The first part would involve a club policy of imposing a €30 charge per adult playing member in order to reactivate the wage cover clause. This would be capped at 25 percent of the existing premium.

However, if clubs decided that this option was not for them and they could not afford the cost of €30 per adult playing member, a second part of Option 2 would kick in: an option where individual players could fund their own cover at €50 a head. Dr Hunt noted that under Option 2, clubs or individuals would be responsible for admin.

A lively debated followed. Alan Leech (Killucan) asked that if Option 2 was capped at 25 percent of the existing premium, did this mean that both Options 1 and 2 were the same in terms of cost. Dr Hunt said that this was the case, but that if for argument’s sake Killucan had sixty players on their books (€1,800), they would be due a grant from Croke Park for the difference between that and the capped premium (€550).

Joe Potter (Lough Lene Gaels) expressed surprise that players do not have to be named under the policy, while Tommy Keegan (Clonkill) asked if there was any difference in benefits between Options 1 and 2. Dr Hunt replied that there was, but that the difference would be minimal.

Des Maguire (Mullingar Shamrocks) said that Option 1 appeared to be the best option of the three. “It’s very hard to get membership out of players without asking them for another €50,” he said.

Garrycastle’s Harry Mooney asked why Option 2 was so “complicated”, i.e. why it came in two parts. He said that in his experience, he had seen very few claims for loss of wages. He said that the cover might put an extra expense on clubs who mightn’t need it.

Patrick Doherty, Westmeath GAA’s head of operations, said that the second part of Option 2 only becomes active if a club decides not to avail of the first part.

With regard to Mr Mooney’s second point, Westmeath GAA chairman Frank Mescall said that while it was great that Garrycastle had very little experience of players losing wages, “one serious injury could set players back a lot of money”. Mr Mooney acknowledged this point.

Killucan’s Alan Leech said that he agreed with Mr Maguire (Mullingar Shamrocks). He said that the idea that clubs would opt out of this was “ludicrous”.

“It’s all fine and well until some lad does get a serious injury. If the club has opted out and left it to the players themselves to organise their own cover, they might find out they haven’t done it. Then they’d have to hold benefit nights,” said the minor board chairman.

“I think Option 1 is a no-brainer. It takes all the administration out of it, and you know you have the cover in place for all players rather than Options 2 and 3, where you’re second guessing.

“Insurance is what it is; you hope you don’t have to claim on it, but when you do and it’s not in order, it’s a nightmare.”

Nollaig McEntegart (St Brigid’s) and Conleth McCormack (St Oliver Plunkett’s) agreed with Messrs Maguire and Leech.

Aiden McGuire (The Downs) said that he doesn’t know why anything other than Option 1 was up for discussion. He said that putting multiple options to clubs came across as “smoke and mirrors” on the part of Central Council.

Dr Hunt replied that in fairness to Central Council, several delegates made that point, but Croke Park was eager to give clubs the option of debating it due to strong feelings in that direction from some counties.

“Maybe we should go back to Central Council and see if they’ll be as open and transparent about other things? There was a few things rolled out this week that should be discussed,” interjected Mr Leech, without going into specifics.

Mr Mescall said that on “general agreement”, Option 1 would be voted for by Westmeath at last Friday’s meeting of Central Council.

Clubs were told that while there will be a grace period for the payment of the premium, no such grace will be afforded with regard to the registration of players.