Kevin O'Donovan hopeful there is still life in 'Proposal B' for football

Suggested change to football championship didn't meet the 60 percent threshold at Saturday's GAA Special Congress
Kevin O'Donovan hopeful there is still life in 'Proposal B' for football

Cork County Board secretary/CEO Kevin O'Donovan. Picture: David Keane

CORK County Board secretary Kevin O’Donovan is disappointed that a league-based football championship proposal didn’t receive sufficient support at Saturday’s Special Congress, but he remains optimistic that a modified version may yet come to pass.

The so-called Proposal B, which would effectively transpose the Allianz Football League to the summer as the feeder for the All-Ireland series, with the provincial championships moved to the spring, needed 60 percent support but received just over 50 percent.

“The initially feeling is disappointment,” says O’Donovan - a member of the Fixtures Calendar Review Task Force - “but then you say, ‘Hang on a minute – if there was a 50-50 vote, more people wanted that format, never mind all of those who said they wanted to vote for it with a few tweaks.’

“So now you’ve a real mandate to move a group-stage format into the summer with tiers and relegation. I’d live with nearly any format based on that.

“Does it need to a committee to work for two years and seek submissions from every club in the country? Let’s be fair, it doesn’t – that work is done. This is about draft two, not a clean slate, because there is a mandate from the vote.”

However, O’Donovan is keen for the moves to reconfigure the proposal to take place as soon as possible.

“I think that there’s a big risk that it will be kicked for touch,” he says.

“I think that there’s a definite agenda out there against change, despite everyone purporting to be for change.

“I’d be heartbroken for the players, as it’s another year wasted. You only have a very short window in a county jersey, they’ve had two years of Covid and they’ve another year of an uneven competition.

“Over half of the people who went to Special Congress were in favour of the format that was proposed. You would say that that was a serious platform with which to come back pretty urgently with a revised format to address some of the concerns raised.

“I’d hope that the President would convene a group to look at it immediately, while it’s fresh in everybody’s minds. We don’t want to be discussing this in 12 months’ time when everyone’s wondering again what Proposal B was.

“We’ve Congress in February, a definite timeline there – we had a lot of discussions in four weeks and we could do a lot more in four months!

“That said, there are so many democratic instruments within the association to bring a motion to Congress, I wouldn’t rule anything out. A new and improved version could come from any source.”

O’Donovan feels that the disconnect between the provincial championships and the All-Ireland was a factor in some of the votes against, as well as the fact that only the top five Division 1 sides would advance to the All-Ireland.

“I think the ‘team six’ thing definitely spooked counties that are benefiting from the system as it is,” he says.

“Even though we have it in hurling, with the Joe McDonagh Cup finalists going further than the team fourth in Munster – there seems to be a complete failure to grasp that – I think that that would have cost votes. You could also look at having a link between the provincial championships and the All-Ireland series.

Everyone purports to be for change but sometimes in your life you have to vote for it!”

Ultimately, it’s about packaging something that will receive enough support while also making for a better championship.

“There are pros and cons with any format,” O’Donovan says.

“A system with more teams qualifying for the final stages, more people will vote for it and you’ll get it passed, but then have you got a non-competitive competition?

“In Cork, when we were bring in a new system, we would have preferred to have two teams coming out of each group but we felt it wouldn’t be passed and we brought in a version with three teams qualifying.

“Covid forced that back to two and now I don’t hear anyone saying that it should go back to three. It made for a more competitive format.

“You have to be careful – if you go chasing votes you could end up in no-man’s land, but you have to get something passed, as well.

“That’s where the possible meets the political and getting something done.”

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