GAA needs more inclusion to boost growth and improvement

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The recent merging of the Gaelic Players Association (GPA) and the Women’s Gaelic Players Association (WGPA), aside from demonstrating a clear indication of unity between the two organisations, could also be the big push needed by sports in Ireland.

Inter-county players voted unanimously in favour of this important step, during emergency meetings which took place on Monday 14th December. The newly unified players’ organisation will seek to boost the profile of women’s Gaelic sports, via much-needed investment for infrastructure and facilities.

However, this can only come if other sporting bodies are likewise unified. Specifically, there have been many calls for the GAA, LGFA, and the Camogie Association to unite under one banner. Thus far, while the GAA has outlined a strategic plan for greater integration, both male and female sporting participants are growing impatient for action to be taken.

Ahead of the merger, the WGPA highlighted the alarming differences in facilities available to men and women. “If Armagh ladies are the only ladies football county that have access to their own facilities and pitch, how are we as women in Gaelic games going to progress,” asked Maria Kinsella of the WGPA, with her question entirely rhetorical.

Traditional and indigenous Gaelic sports enjoy a continually growing profile around the world, with the GAA itself boasting a membership of more than 500,000 participants. Nevertheless, continuing to raise the profile of Irish sports can only continue, if women can gain access to the same kind of facilities available to men.

In the modern sporting world, performance is increasingly reliant on the use of technology and data. Both on and off the pitch, the profile of Gaelic sports will only improve if women can be provided with better access to training facilities and venues, along with greater promotion and financial support.

Gaelic sports played by men are already widely covered by television broadcasters and online betting companies, although the coverage of women’s games is limited to just the biggest events. Aside from government support, outside investment from sponsors and improved external revenue streams could be sought, to bridge the current gap in funding.

Wagering on Gaelic sports is entirely driven by the sophistication of online sportsbook software. Companies like ProNet, who supply gambling platforms with such software, know how important the inclusion and gathering of data is to betting providers. Their systems can access information from stadiums in less than two seconds; to cover women’s games in this same way, the platforms will need better access to the facilities which surround women’s sports.

Improved infrastructure and investment would benefit everyone, from participants to stakeholders. Then there are the much-needed improvements in organisation, which has ultimately led for calls for the GAA to be an all-encompassing body, underpinned by stronger ties between all the sports involved.

Such a clearer understanding of what Gaelic sports are currently lacking, vocally provided by the participants themselves, may be the continued push needed for important changes on the road ahead. The GPA and WGPA merger highlight those needs, almost acting as a clarion call to action, that now is the time to turn words into actions.


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