Thursday 27 April 2017

GPA air need for grievance process

Anthony Masterson has moved on but says players need a voice, writes Dermot Crowe

Anthony Masterson's letter of apology is due to be lodged with the Central Competitions Control Committee (CCCC) on Tuesday arising from hard-line comments described by one member of the body as being "well up the Richter Scale".

Faced with the prospect of a two-month suspension, he's offering an unreserved apology but the case has angered some of his team-mates and others who felt he should not have to repent.

When contacted on Friday, Masterson said he had received messages on Facebook "from around the country, up in Kildare, all sorts of places" pleading with him not to apologise. "It is a weird situation. Everyone has had a similar experience and every county has had its ups and downs; many people were feeling the way I was feeling. But I was going to be sitting on my backside for two months (if he didn't apologise). We won a county title last year and I want to retain that. I can understand where the GAA are coming from. I presume that the GAA weren't expecting me to apologise for being angry, but because I had called him the world's worst referee and things like that. That came out in the heat of the moment, I was entitled to express my opinion but I overstepped the mark. But players need to have their voices heard."

Allowing players or managers the liberty of unloading their angst in such emotive circumstances would run the risk of anarchy and threaten the support pillars that hold the entire matrix of the GAA together. There has to be a level of respect for match officials regardless of the errors they make. But this year has seen an unseemly number of high-profile cock-ups and Masterson could no longer hold his tongue.

Asked what he was putting in his letter to the CCCC, the Wexford goalkeeper said: "There is a lot I would like to say in it, but I will be keeping it short and sweet -- I just want it over and done with and to play club football. Hopefully it will highlight that something needs to be done. Some day it will cost some team an All-Ireland final."

Dessie Farrell of the GPA believes there is a need for some kind of grievance process where players and managers can vent their spleen, and raise issues that concern them, which would benefit all parties. He sees this as being a healing and learning mechanism that would improve the overall quality of the games and how they are managed.

"It's all very well saying players shouldn't be giving out in public and that is valid -- there has to be some sort of protocol -- but by the same token if you look at the outcome of what happened in the Masterson case, they are now more open to change than ever in terms of the Rules Revision Committee Motion and Hawk-Eye. I know the Rules Revision Committee was there already but this has given it greater urgency.

"So the Masterson case, along with the other controversies, has moved the thing along. From that point of view, there is no doubt it did have an impact. The challenge is how you can set something up -- a mechanism -- some kind of grievance process for players and managers that has substance and is taken seriously. Then everyone knows you can't go around lambasting officials; that this is the place to go. But it has to be taken seriously."

Farrell feels that the GAA would be open to this kind of approach and referees would too. "Referees would be supportive of anything that makes things better," says Farrell. "The other thing is that the GAA, in fairness, is working at training and developing referees. And umpires have also undergone certain training this year. I think the GAA could make that more public knowledge and at least communicate that. So rather than having players venting off in the dark, they could know that this is happening. It cannot be a GPA agenda, it needs all the stakeholders."

The Rules Revision Committee, on which Farrell sits along with Páraic Duffy, Frank Murphy, Donal óg Cusack, Pat Daly and others, was formed to bring about quicker change than Congress allows. Currently the pressing issues are technology to help settle disputed scores and reform of the square ball rule.

Players still attack match officials unchecked on Twitter, the social network, drawing concerned comments from Duffy. The Monaghan footballer, and newspaper columnist, Dick Clerkin is an avid Twitter user. He advises caution to practitioners. "It happens on the second. You are on the heartbeat of things but it is always dangerous, it is out there and there is no taking it back. Some people just have not grasped that yet."

He feels that Masterson went too far. "If it was accepted and the CCC did nothing, where does that stop? Next Sunday it is open season on the referees. End of the day everyone is blinkered, you are not talking from an honest platform, especially after a match, you are filled with emotion. I think definitely they have to lay some discipline down; it is okay to express an opinion but not to that extent. I thought it was over the top."

Masterson is anxious to put the issue behind him now. His club play in the championship on Thursday and with some relief his attentions will turn to that.

Sunday Indo Sport

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