GAA rank and file await decision on ‘loss of wages’ cover
Kevin Óg Carney
Croke Park's decision to consider alternatives to the current pause the organisation has applied from January 1 this year to the loss of wages cover that forms part of the wider Player Injury Benefit Fund has been given a thumbs up by rank and file members of the GAA in Cavan.
Club secretaries in Cavan were given a written update last week by County Insurance Officer Thomas Brady (Munterconnacht) on Croke Park’s contentious pause on “loss of wages cover” from January 1 2021 and its 2020 Injury Fund Extension (to May 31 2021).
The first of Central Council’s two options concerns an “offer all its playing members who may feel that loss of wages cover is a prerequisite for participation in GAA activities for 2021 to individually subscribe to a stand-alone GAA endorsed personal injury cover plan.”
The second option involves a “review of the 2021 Injury Fund premium payable by each of the 1,500 units and potentially increase this premium by 25% to partly cover 1.3m euro of the forecasted 3m euro fund deficit to May 2022 if loss of wages cover is to be reinstated during this term. The funds ongoing deficit is primarily due to the absence of gate receipts during this term which ordinarily sub-vents the shortfall in the fund annually.”
However, long-time Shercock administrator Peadar Mohan believes the grass roots of the Association in Cavan and elsewhere will be anxiously awaiting the result of Croke Park's review of the two options.
The highly-respected former school headmaster believes that Central Council may well plump for option two if the loss of wages cover is to be permanently re-instated.
But, he says that while there is a recognition that the GAA’s income at all levels has plummeted, the decision by Croke Park to make cost-savings by re-jigging the Player Injury Benefit Fund has caused consternation among the grass roots.
Speaking on his own behalf to the Anglo-Celt this week, Mohan says the optics of the move by the GAA “aren’t good”, particularly against a backdrop in which the GAA player insurance scheme appeared to serve its members well over the years.
“I would have been loud in my praise of the GAA Player Insurance Scheme as it existed,” Mohan opined.
“The wage element, when incorporated with social welfare benefits, allowed a player to recoup a considerable amount of his expenses through injury.
“The medical benefits were very important as well and they too went a long way towards covering most of the medical expenses incurred.
“Obviously the GAA’s income has taken a huge hit but the fact that players are in the front line of taking the hit for the big fall in revenue doesn’t look good.
“Players are the GAA’s most valuable resource and it doesn’t make sense to me that they should be the fall-guys for the disastrous financial situation that has emerged in the wake of Covid-19.
“And apart from the players, the fact is the clubs will be hit with a double whammy if the wage element of insurance is withdrawn because of the year they’ve had with club income, through the Lotto, bingo and other ventures, way down.
“I think if volunteers, already weighed down with having to look after things like insurance duty of care, child protection issues, health and safety worries, might drop out if this added burden of responsibility on placed on their shoulders.”
Insurance premiums are notoriously high in Ireland and Mohan believes the GAA’s new analysis of its capacity to contribute to the players’ injury scheme must be seen in the context of the cost of insurance in this country.
A recent study into Irish insurance revealed that if soft tissue awards in this country were reduced by 80 percent they would be on a par with British insurance awards, and would still be higher than the European average.
While acknowledging Ireland’s reputation “as one of the most litigious societies in the world”, Mohan is scathing in his assessment of the insurance industry, per se, in Ireland:
“In fairness to the GAA, no reference to insurance is complete without taking a look at the overall Irish insurance situation. From my experience, Irish insurance hovers between a joke and a scandal.
“Buy a lotto ticket and you might win but sue and it seems you’re past the post. It’s as simple as that.”
On a positive note, the Shercock GAA stalwart gives the thumbs up to the decision by the GAA to extend the Injury Fund cover to May 31 this year.
Croke Park’s decision comes on the back of a ban on training and games due to Covid-19 over the period January to March this year.
The extension of the Fund means that the GAA Injury Benefit Fund cover remains in place based on existing 2020 team registrations with certain conditions applying.
Mohan reckons though that while a club can cut its cloth to suit its means to a certain degree, it’s not always possible to save money when, at times, serious injury expenses mount up:
“A planned building project at club level can be deferred and at the start of this year, club officers can sit down and plan their financial strategy. If club funds are tight they can plan accordingly.
“They can also save money by appointing a manger from within the club rather than paying an outside manager.
“And further savings can be had whereby club members and parents take it on themselves to transport underage teams to away matches.
“But you can’t plan for injuries; you could have three players injured in the same match.
“A cruciate ligament injury, for instance, could well amount to a five figure sum when loss of wage and an operation and other medical costs are factored into the equation.”