Sport Gaelic Football

Tuesday 2 September 2014

18 steps to a better game . . .

Colm Keys

Published 11/12/2012 | 05:00

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GAA president Liam O'Neill (seated left) alongside Football Review Committee chairman Eugene McGee. Back row (l-r) secretary Kevin Griffin, Tim Healy, John Tobin, Tony Scullion, Killian Burns and Paul Earley at the official launch of the first report of the FRC

Most of the changes recommended by FRC would improve football – but it’s hard to see some ideas getting passed, says Colm Keys

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1 – Ultimate control with club fixture-making should be with a county's competitions controls committee (CCC) rather than the county board itself, mirroring the CCCC at national level.

FRC chairman Eugene McGee told of "outrageous horror stories" relating to fixtures cancellations in counties. Inter-county managers were most culpable in this regard according to the report.

"One county board chairman pointed out that his CCC had stood their ground on an important club match but a motion was put to the county board committee and they overruled the CCC. Now this motion here is to prevent that happening. The trouble with one fixture or two fixtures being called off is the ramifications of even one county minor manager behaving in this manner," said McGee.

It was noted that in response to the survey 52pc of the 1,000 players who responded thought fixture-making in their county was either poor or very poor and 64pc said that the club season was too long and drawn out.

Verdict: Good concept that works at national level, but how much power would a board be prepared to cede to a sub-committee?

2 – A phased introduction of mandatory coaching qualifications, particularly for managers/coaches of adult teams at club and county level by 2015 at latest.

"It is one of the great anomalies – there is no inter-county manager that I am aware of and very few club managers that have coaching certificates," said McGee.

Given the structure of many management teams, the manager doesn't always coach and a certificate in human resources might be just as appropriate!

Verdict: A nice idea in theory, but in practice it will be a lot more difficult to implement. Sometimes it's hard to teach an old dog new tricks and this proposal will try to do that in some cases. Unlikely to be rolled out by 2015.

3 – A distinction between accidental and deliberate fouls be written into the rule book, with only deliberate fouls invoking a card punishment.

Places a big responsibility on a referee to distinguish and in some instances gives some a way out of a potentially hard call. It seems fair to make that distinction, but does it possibly lead to greater inconsistency?

Verdict: One of the hardest sells.

4 – Yellow-carded players subject to mandatory substitution. After three yellow cards, however, no substitution allowed. The number of substitutions allowed to rise from five to six.

The average number of yellow cards is 6.6 per game. The committee considered a sin bin but felt it was too difficult to operate at club level in particular. This yellow cards/mandatory substitution came close to succeeding in 2009, failing by just eight votes to get the required two-thirds majority.

The danger in capping the limit to three after which teams lose the right to substitute yellow-carded players creates a danger that referees will be more lenient after that, when cynicism is more prevalent in the latter stages of a game.

In addition, a player picking up three yellow cards in one grade in any one year will automatically receive a two-match ban.

Verdict: The key proposal to tackling cynicism. Two-thirds majority will require quite a sales pitch again.

5 – Moving the ball forward 30 metres instead of 13 metres.

A logical suggestion from the committee to punish players who 'back chat' referees or disrupt the quick taking of a free. By moving it forward 30 metres they are "hitting players where it hurts" according to committee member Killian Burns, the former Kerry player.

Verdict: Certain to be passed.

6 – A new definition for the tackle.

In the survey, 73pc of respondents identified the 'lack of a clearly defined tackle' as the main source of concern. The committee want a 'play the ball principle' to govern the definition of any tackle, whereby the only physical contact can be a fair charge, shoulder to shoulder.

Verdict: Should succeed but will it improve people's concept of the tackle?

7 – A five-second advantage rule.

The issue that drew the greatest positive response in the survey and the meetings with focus groups. It didn't even generate debate as a motion at the 2000 Congress. Now it looks a fait accompli.

Verdict: Has to go through.

8 – The Mark.

A mark or free play is being proposed for players who catch a kickout cleanly between the '45s'.

This failed at the 2010 Congress and was not thought to have had widespread support during focus group discussions. The average number of clean catches per game is six; the committee believe the introduction of a mark can improve the game a as a spectacle.

Verdict: May not gain sufficient support.

9 – Clean pick.

Defeated at Congress 2005, the committee believe it can reduce the number of frees considerably. Some 13pc of all frees occur around the pick-up, either for an illegal execution or a foul.

Verdict: The pick-up, for all its apparent faults, is still considered a skill of the game which may be worth retaining in some opinions. Even the committee were divided on it.

10 – Scores from the hand.

Referees have been unable to make a distinction between open hand and fisted points. Fisted scores are permitted, open hand are not. This removes the grey area.

Verdict: Should carry.

11 – Public time clock.

Overwhelming support for the clock in the survey, and the FRC want them introduced to cover inter-county championship games next summer.

This was considered too costly in 2010 (€250,000) but director general Paraic Duffy now thinks it's 'doable'. The clock would stop and start for injuries at the referee's signal.

Verdict: A good idea to ensure accuracy of time lost through injuries.

12 – All adult games go to 70 minutes.

Analysis shows that the ball is in play for just over 50pc of game time. Kickouts and frees account for another 37pc with the rest taken up by injuries.

Verdict: It's fine for the club teams of a higher standard but at lower junior grades this might be too taxing.

Good housekeeping proposals

13 The existing manager's charter should become a formal agreement, with Croke Park reserving the right to audit the agreement to ensure compliance.

14 A 'laypersons' guide to the playing rules which explains the most common rules but would have no formal or legal standing. The report suggests a "widespread lack of understanding" of many of the rules among sections of the GAA including players, managers and followers. An easy guide would help all those parties to understand it better.

15 In the interest of improving refereeing standards at all levels, the direct link that currently exists between the head of referees in each province and county and the chairman of the referees' committee be strengthened.

16 Proper enforcement by referees of the rules governing field incursions. Such enforcement would go some way to address the issue of time wasting.

17 A recruitment drive for refs among recently retired players be pursued.

18 In the interest of building rapport and respect, referees should visit both dressing-rooms to introduce themselves to players before all games. McGee suggests this is a "civilised" thing to do in the quest for respect, and it is.

Irish Independent

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