A series of small changes will lead to more entertainment
Published 11/12/2012 | 05:00
The first thing that needs to be said about yesterday's report of the Football Review Committee is that it will not be ignored – by anybody.
Such was the huge volume of communication between rank-and-file Gaelic football people over the past seven months that interest in the proposals will be at a very high level from now until GAA Congress in late March.
Equally important is that the leaders of the GAA are totally committed to these proposed changes and officials, such as county board chairmen, have been urged strongly to take the necessary steps to implement them.
There is nothing earth-shattering about the FRC proposals, nothing that will rock the GAA to its foundations. What we are proposing is a series of relatively small changes that in the eyes of many football people should have been made a long time ago.
There have been calls for a public clock for years, and the advantage rule has always been a topic for discussion when followers meet after a big game.
Treating club footballers and their inter-county colleagues equally by having the same playing time, 70 minutes, cannot be regarded as anything other than fair play for the thousands of club players who train just as hard as many county stars.
Being allowed to score with a hand-pass as opposed to from the fist makes sense, if only to take away one of the hardest tasks referees have: trying to discern a hand-pass from a fisted pass from a distance.
Disciplinary rule changes are always that bit more difficult because Gaelic players can find it hard to change old habits. But in recent years, no fair-minded GAA fan could argue with the fact that cynical and deliberate fouling has become more common and that is against all principles of fair play.
The proposals are concise and clear-cut and are governed by the guideline that sees football as a game where the most important rule is, play the ball, not the man.
This encourages players to abide by that principle, thus removing the tendency to foul deliberately and lessening the need for yellow cards.
I am sure there will be some people arguing that these changes would take the physicality out of football, but there is still plenty of scope within the rules for hard, physical contact and those players who are good at that aspect of the game have no problem in executing good, solid challenges on opponents within the playing rules.
The problem is that too many players lack discipline and deliberately break the rules in the process of trying to be a 'hard man'.
The FRC stated from the start – and has extensive figures to back it up – that the state of football is very good overall.
All that is required to maintain and build on that healthy position is to eliminate the kind of sneaky, nasty behaviour that has become more prevalent in recent years.
Stopping the play deliberately by pulling down an opponent is not fair, or manly. The football public are no fools. They understand the game maybe a lot more than many of the players or mentors even.
They can quickly identify, and criticise, play that is negative, destructive and aimed solely at stopping opponents. That is why around 4,000 people who communicated with the FRC rated cynical play as being their No 1 bugbear.
It was the duty of the FRC, on behalf of the whole GAA, to take steps to rectify this problem, hence the new proposals.
There is a very simple way in which players can avoid yellow cards: stop committing deliberate, cynical fouls.
Accidental fouls, even if robust, will not incur cards of any type so the solution is quite clear. It is over to players, mentors and coaches after that. Good coaching can prevent most fouls taking place.
Gaelic football is a great game and integral to the lives of hundreds of thousands of Irish people living all over the world.
We have a duty therefore to enhance the game, to make it more attractive for players to play and fans to watch and the FRC hope that is what will unfold over the next year or two.