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An Unspoken Prospect: The merging of the LGFA and GAA

by Laura Burke

Two separate organisations that govern the same game, play for the same prize of All Ireland glory and represent players, clubs and counties across the country. The difference is that one organisation is for males and the other is for females. The GAA is far more dominant than the LGFA across all boards including advertising, attendances and player welfare. Ladies football is on the rise and the majority of ladies footballers would agree that they train and compete equally if not more with male footballers that they know of.

So this begs the vital question, why can the LGFA not become part of one association for all Gaelic footballers across the country under the GAA?

Ladies football is still miles behind the men’s in terms of equality and there is no other way to put it. Besides the fact that promotion of the ladies game has come on leaps and bounds in the past two years, a lot which must be attributed to the support of LIDL and their funding to the LGFA, almost every ladies team will tell you that they get half of what their male counterparts get – the even sadder thing is that this is what they expect to get.

If you look at other sports such as tennis, the male and female athletes play all the same tournaments, obviously in separate male and female divisions. However, taking Wimbledon for example, the ladies finals are played on the same main stage, noteably centre court, as a curtain raiser to the men’s finals. Now while it must be said that the men’s final is always the main attraction, the ladies are exposed to the same crowd and greater audiences because they are a part of the same organisation who respect the ladies players and tournaments just as much as the men’s.

Then you turn to the GAA and look at the controversy surrounding player equality that came in the form of hawk eye. Dublin ladies were defeated in their quest to win their first All-Ireland trophy since 2010 because it was decided before the game that there was no need for hawk eye to be simply switched on the same way it is used for every single men’s fixture in Croke Park. After the game the LGFA released a statement to say that it was decided that hawk eye would not be used because it was not used or in place in any other ground or previous ladies fixtures across the country all year. Is this not the case within the GAA also when they play championship games outside of Croke Park? Yes is the answer. However, this simply would not have happened in the men’s All Ireland final so why is it still happening in our ladies game?

The idea of the LGFA and GAA merging is one that brings both positives and negatives to mind. The GAA has much more funding, exposure to the public and more television time than the LGFA has ever had and this is something that the LGFA could really do with. The GAA has the ability to achieve the rights and equalities that female players seek but there are so many obstacles that prevent the two organisations from forming. Perhaps one of the main factors preventing the two organisations merging is the fear of loss of jobs within the LGFA if the GAA takes over. However, I do not see why the LGFA could not work and succeed as a branch working under the GAA who could negotiate fixtures, use of facilities and double/triple header events with the ladies game acting as curtain raisers to some of the men’s fixtures. The LGFA and GAA currently have to negotiate fixtures and other issues as separate organisations, which often ends with problems, but this would surely work better for both groups if they were all working within one body to better how the GAA works.

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For the moment, there is no sign of any of these problems being solved and there isn’t any sign of the GAA and LGFA working together. Until this happens, we must face the facts that the ladies game will always come second to the men’s, the ladies will continue to be pushed off pitches and training fields because a superior men’s fixture is taking place and while we continue to make the same sacrifices and efforts year round as those in the GAA, we will still always come second to the GAA because we do not belong to them although we embody everything that makes up the GAA.

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