GAA Special Congress 2021 - The Motions Explained

By John Harrington

GAA Special Congress 2021 will be held on Saturday, October 23 in Croke Park.

In total there will be 10 motions on the Clár that were all deferred from GAA Congress 2021 last February which all retain the same numbering of when they were first published.

Motions 1 and 3 are proposed by Central Council, Motion 9 is propsed by St. Patrick's GAA club, Fermanagh, Motion 11 is proposed by the Leinster Council, Motions 18 and 19 are proposed by the Calendar Review Task force, and Motions 29, 35, 36, and 37 are proposed by the International Work-Group.

In every case, a majority of 60% would be required for the motion to pass. And in nine of the 10 cases, any rule change will come into effect four weeks after Special Congress. The sole exception here is Motion 9, where competitions which are already underway under the existing arrangements will conclude before the rule of change comes into effect.

At the bottom of this article you can view and download the motions as they will appear before the delegates.

You can also download the GAA's Official Guide Parts 1 & 2 to read alongside examining the motions.

Below is a simplified guide to the motions to be dealt with at GAA Special Congress 2021. Motions 18 and 19 are the most high profile, as they propose to significantly restructure the All-Ireland Football Championship.

GAA Special Congress 2021 will be held on Saturday, October 23 in Croke Park. 
GAA Special Congress 2021 will be held on Saturday, October 23 in Croke Park. 


Motion 1 seeks to resolve recent ambiguity about the role of the development officer in a county. It addresses the fact that the term 'development' can encompass a number of disciplines. So, the proposal is to assign that responsibility to two roles, and to make very clear the scope of each role and the distinction between them. The motion does this in six steps.

Firstly, it redesignates the current Development Officer, as a newly defined Planning and Training Officer.

It also redesignates the current Safety Officer, as a newly defined Safety and Facilities officer.

Then the motion renames the Planning and Physical Development and Safety Committee, as the Safety and Facilities Committee.

It also establishes a new Planning and Training committee. So if the motion is passed you would have two new or two redefined committees, which are aligned to the two new roles.

The motion also defines in detail the scope and the terms of reference of each of these committees.

Both of the new positions are appointed and the issue of whether or not these positions will have a vote within the county is a matter has to be decided locally.

Larry McCarthy (right) succeeded John Horan (left) as Uachtarán Chumann Lúthchleas Gael at GAA Congress 2021.
Larry McCarthy (right) succeeded John Horan (left) as Uachtarán Chumann Lúthchleas Gael at GAA Congress 2021.


Motion 3 establishes in rule an Audit and Risk Committee as a sub-committee of the County Committee. The motion sets out in detail the role, scope, and composition of the new committee. And it establishes independent and external oversight of the committee, at provincial level.

And, finally, the motion also provides for the same structures to be introduced at provincial and national level. Such committees already exist in many counties and provinces already and at national level, so this motion is making the establishment of the Audit and Risk Committee mandatory.


Motion nine deals with how walkovers are treated for the purposes of match suspensions. Currently, a walkover does not count as a match when considering how many games of a suspension have been served.

This motion proposes to change that arrangement so that a walkover will not now count as a match served for players and officials from the team who concede the walkover. For the team receiving the walkover, the game will actually count.


Motion 11 is concerned with the composition of the county committee as defined in Rule 3.18 (b).

If Motion 1 is passed then Motion 11 will simply extend the definition of the county committee to include the newly created Safety and Facilities Officer.

Motions 18 and 19 propose to restructure the All-Ireland Football Championship. 
Motions 18 and 19 propose to restructure the All-Ireland Football Championship. 


Motion 18 is the first motion on the Clár that relates to the restructuring of the football championship. It is also known as the eight-team Provincial Championship Motion. If passed there would be two phases to the provincial championships. The first phase would see three preliminary rounds played in Leinster and one preliminary round in Ulster.

Preliminary rounds

In Leinster, those preliminary rounds would be played between the six lowest ranked teams at the end of that year's Allianz League. They would enter three preliminary rounds which would be played at neutral venues and those six teams would play off against each other.

The winners of those games would progress to the Leinster Championship proper. Two of the defeated teams in those games would go to the Munster Championship with the other team going to the Connacht Championship. The two teams going to Munster would make that an eight-team provincial Championship, and the other Leinster team going to Connacht would help them get up to eight teams in their provincial championship too.

In Ulster, the two lowest ranked teams at the end of that year's Allianz League would play a preliminary round match to be played at a neutral venue. The winners of that game would continue to the Ulster Championship and losers would go to the Connacht Championship. Once the preliminary rounds are played in Leinster and Connacht, you would be left with eight teams competing for the four provincial titles.

Second phase

In the second phase you have eight teams in each of the four provinces which are split into two groups of four. Each team will play three round-robin games in the provincial championship. The groups will be seeded so the first, fourth, fifth, and eight highest ranked from the Allianz Leagues will be in Group 1 in each case. And the second, third, sixth, and seventh highest ranked counties in the Allianz League from each province will make up Group 2.

Each county would have one home game, one away game, and one neutral game, and those will be based on draws carried out by the provincial councils at the start of the championships.

Then, at the end of the Round Robin phase, the group winners will go on to the Provincial Final and the bottom teams in each group, presuming they're Division 3 or 4 counties, as well as New York, would play in a knockout Tailteann Cup.

The second, and third placed teams then would go into the All-Ireland Qualifiers.

All-Ireland Qualifiers

In Round One of the Qualifiers, eight games are played. All of the second-placed teams from the provincial groups would play at home to third-placed teams from the provincial groups.

There are four games in Round 2 of the All-Ireland Qualifiers with the winners of the Round 1 Qualifiers playing one another with the venues based on draws.

Round 3 would see the Round 2 winners play against the beaten Provincial finalists. Those games would be neutral venues.


The Round 3 winners would play the provincial champions, again in a neutral venue. The All-Ireland semi-finals and finals will then be played as they currently are. The All-Ireland Final would take place on the 29th weekend of the year, which in 2020 falls on July 16/17.

Cathal McShane of Tyrone celebrates with his team-mates and the Sam Maguire Cup after the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match between Mayo and Tyrone at Croke Park in Dublin. 
Cathal McShane of Tyrone celebrates with his team-mates and the Sam Maguire Cup after the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match between Mayo and Tyrone at Croke Park in Dublin. 


Motion 19 will only be voted on if Motion 18 fails. If Motion 18 is passed by more than a 60 per cent majority, there will be no need to debate Motion 19.

Motion 19 would envisage using the current League structures as the basis for a restructured All-Ireland Senior Football Championship.

This motion propose to play the provincial championships before a league-based All-Ireland championship.

Provincial Championships

The provincial championships would be round-robin competitions played February and March. You'd have a group of six teams in Connacht, a group of six teams in Munster, and then in Leinster you'd have a group of five teams and another group of six team, while in Ulster you'd have a group of four teams and a group of five teams.

In the Connacht and Munster Championships, each team would play five games. Two home games and three away games or vice versa depending on the draw. The group winners would go to the provincial final directly. The second and third placed teams would play a provincial semi-final with the winner going on to the provincial final.

In Ulster's two groups the games are also played home and away on the basis of a draw. The top two teams in each group advance to cross-over semi-finals. The winner in one group playing the runner up in another group and vice-versa. The winning teams then participate in the Ulster Final.

In Leinster, the teams in the five-team group will play four round-robin games and the teams in the six-team group will play five round-robin games. Again, home and away on the basis of a draw and the group compositions are also on the basis of a draw at the start of the year.

Then the top two teams in each group would go to crossover semi-finals with the winners going on to the Leinster Final.

Those provincial championships would be played in February and March. The provincial championships are played as stand-alone competitions and lead no further.

All-Ireland Championship

The All-Ireland Championship will be played on a League basis after the provincial championships have concluded.

The structure is the same as what is currently used in the Allianz Football League, Division 1 to Division Four, and would be played between April and July.

It would comprise of four divisions, eight teams per division, with each team getting seven games. At the end of that round robin series the top five teams in Division One would qualify automatically for the All-Ireland Senior Championship quarter-finals along with the Division Two winners to make six teams. The other two teams to make the quarter-finals would come from preliminary All-Ireland quarter-finals.

Those preliminary quarterfinals would be played between the second and third place teams in Division Two, as well as the Division Three and Division Four winners. All other Division One and Division Two teams will be eliminated at this point.

As we're accustomed to in the current leagues, the bottom two teams in each division will be relegated for the following year. The top team from Division 3 will be automatically promoted each year along with the Tailteann Cup winners.

The top two teams in Division four would be promoted to Division 3 every year unless the Tailteann winners are a Division 4 team from outside the top two.

The Tailteann Cup would include New York and all Division 3 and Division 4 teams except the Division winners who progress to the preliminary quarter-finals as previously mentioned.

The Tailteann Cup would be played on a knock-out basis.

The League-based championship would begin on April 9/10 and would conclude with the All-Ireland Final on the 29th weekend of the year which in 2022 falls on July 16/17.

What happens if neither Motion 18 nor Motion 19 are passed?

If neither Motion 18 nor Motion 19 are passed, then for 2022 the Central Competitions Control Committee will recommend to the GAA's Central Council that we revert to the current provincial championship structures with, qualifiers, the Tailteann Cup, and knock-out quarter-finals rather than the round-robin quarter-finals that were in place for the 2018 and 2019 campaigns.

A general view of delegates during the GAA Annual Congress 2018 at Croke Park in Dublin. 
A general view of delegates during the GAA Annual Congress 2018 at Croke Park in Dublin. 


Motion 29 considers representation of units at Congress.

Currently counties are represented by one delegate for every 10 affiliated clubs to a maximum of 10 delegates and a minimum of four and counties with fewer than five affiliations will have two delegates.

The new proposal introduces a distinction whereby a county which has not played in the previous year's senior inter-county championship will have reduced representation as follows.

One delegate for every 10 affiliated clubs as before, but to a maximum of five and a minimum of three delegates. And counties with fewer than five affiliations will have two delegates, again, as before.


Motion 35 considers the administration and approval process for players who are playing internationally on a temporary basis and it proposes a new licensing system which will completely replace the current system of sanctions and weekend authorisations.

The proposal is that when a player from outside World GAA wishes to play in a World GAA jurisdiction, he will now apply for a license of fixed duration. You can only receive one such license in any calendar year.

He cannot play with his own club during the period of the license. And when the license expires, the player will revert automatically to his own domestic club and his previous domestic grade. Another provision in here is that Intercounty players will not be eligible to receive a license until their county has been eliminated from the championship.


Motion 36 is concerned with the impact on a player's grading when he plays overseas.

Rule 6.19(5) currently states that a player doesn't lose his grading by virtue of playing at a higher grade championship in USGAA, New York, Canada, or Europe.

This motion proposes deleting this element of the rule because if motion 35 succeeds then the same grading safeguards will now be built into the new licensing arrangements and Rule 6.19 (5) will no longer be required.

So motion 36 simply serves to delete rule 619 (5)


Motion 37 deals with the jurisdiction of the Disputes Resolution Authority (DRA). Rule 7.13 (f) currently limits DRA access to units and members in Ireland and in Britain. So this motion proposes to extend this right of access to other international units and specifically to such other counties, provinces, or administrative areas as may be agreed by both the secretary of the DRA and Central Council.