Championship structure: red or green?

It’s rather apposite, on the shortest day of the year, to be considering the topic of the GAA’s football Championship structure, given that the business end of the action will be taking place in high summer, when the bright evenings stretch on for hours on end.

New plans for changing the structure of the football Championship are afoot. The fresh push for change builds on the appetite for reform that was so evident in the Special Congress back in October where the radical Proposal B option narrowly failed to obtain the required 60% support.

The publication earlier today of the 2022 master fixtures schedule underscores the desirability for change. Next year will, once again, see the year start with a hyper-competitive but ultimately irrelevant National League competition, followed by the tired old lopsided nonsense of the provincial Championships before the real action – the stuff that matters – gets going in the All-Ireland Series.

Next year may or may not be the final one in which we’re saddled with this pig’s breakfast of a schedule for competitive action at inter-county level. Whether or not this is so depends on what happens next, in the lead-in to next February’s Congress and then at Congress itself, which next year is set to be held at the Dome in the Connacht GAA Centre of Excellence.

The GAA announced last week that its Management Committee had agreed that two distinct reform proposals would be considered further by its Ard Chomhairle next month, where the aim is that one of these will then be put forward for consideration at Congress in Bekan in February.

The two proposals have been colour-coded. The ‘red’ option is the radical one, styled as an improved Proposal B, whereas the ‘green’ one is a steady as she goes option which would involve minimal enough tweaking. Here’s how the GAA itself characterised the two options:

Red Proposal – a Round Robin Provincial Championship in February/March, followed by a national league type championship from April – July (i.e. an improved Proposal B)

Green Proposal – Retention of the current Allianz League and Provincial championships followed by Round Robin groups in the Sam Maguire and Tailteann Cups

Proponents for real change – many of whom got behind the Proposal B option in October – are likely to weigh in behind the Red Proposal. Key to its chances of making it as far as the Congress Clár will, though, be how it deals with the flaws that were identified in the Proposal B plan, in particular how teams finishing low in the Division One table would have lost out to counties playing in lower divisions.

If, though, the mood within the Ard Chomhairle is to keep things broadly as they are and opt for a bit of minimalist tinkering then it could well be the case that the Green Proposal will be the one to make it onto the agenda for Congress early next year.

We’ll know late next month which way the GAA proposes to take the topic forward. It’s clear from the way the votes went at the Special Congress that there’s a significant appetite within the association for meaningful change but it’s still far from clear if there’s sufficient support for a reform proposal that would see a radical reshaping of the inter-county season.

The debate on Championship reform looks set, then, to recommence in earnest over the coming weeks. As an input to this, let’s test the mid-winter waters on the two options for change that have been mooted: when it comes to structural change are you in the Red corner or the Green corner?

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Championship structure: red or green?