McGuinness says pressure on referees ruining football
IS Gaelic football becoming a game for sissies? That was the question posed to Donegal manager Jim McGuinness yesterday.
McGuinness agreed there is a big danger of football's inherent physicality being diluted due to fussy refereeing, over-use of yellow cards for technical offences and inconsistency in application of rules. But his message was: "Don't blame the referees. They are under phenomenal pressure."
McGuinness was speaking at the media event in advance of the weekend's NFL finals in which his Donegal team will play Laois in the Division 2 decider on Sunday.
The former county midfielder, in his first year of management, criticised the system of assessment on referees, and called for a re-think on the issue by the GAA.
Managers and players get slammed when they don't deliver results, but in the view of the Donegal boss, the referees have their own unique pressures.
"In my estimation, over the last few seasons the referees are the talking point 70pc of the time after matches now because of fussy fouls, and technical fouls. It drives supporters, managers and players crazy. There is nothing majorly wrong with the game, but it has become really technical now to the detriment of the fluency of matches," said McGuinness.
"The referees are under phenomenal pressure. There are 26 or 28 referees in a panel and 14 or 16 of them will referee this year in the championship, so there are at least 10 referees that are not going to make the panel.
"I was also informed that there is a panel of assessors and not all the assessors get to assess in the championship, so they have to pick every single technicality out in order for their points to be high.
"So now you are in a situation where assessors are fighting for stripes and referees are fighting for stripes, and the players and the managers are trying to win matches. If you are a coach you need to know what is going to happen on a consistent basis and we don't know on Sundays how it's going to play out. I would say that it is not the refs' fault. They are under pressure to make the cut for the All-Ireland series."
McGuinness suggests that English Premier League football has had an insidious influence on the GAA, even to the extent of the yellow card syndrome becoming a regular feature for infractions that really are very technical.
"What I would say on it is that a lot of decisions that have been made in the last few years have been reflective of decisions made in the Premier League in England," he said.
"We have got a cultural identity in this country and these are our indigenous games. We don't need yellow cards. If you put your foot over the line in a game of soccer the last couple of years they are pulling it up. All of a sudden now in Ireland it is the exact same thing.
"What we need to do is go back in time rather than go forward in time and protect what we have, which are phenomenal games when they are played and refereed with common sense. If people are aggressive or consistently fouling that has to be addressed, but this other stuff is not important.
"I'll reiterate, I feel sorry for the referees. Because, why do they referee? Why am I a manager? Why are the players playing? The answer is that I want to be a successful manager, players want to try and win an All-Ireland and referees want to be a successful too.
"They're refereeing because they want to take charge of an All-Ireland final ultimately."
McGuinness does not feel the answer is to do away with assessors completely. "If there was a situation where the referees were being assessed, and they were getting general advice based on their assessment but it hadn't an impact on them getting the next gig, I think that would be a good way," he said.
"They obviously have to be assessed, because you need regulation, but it can't be a situation where 'you did a bad job so because you did a bad job we're not going to give you a championship match.' That's phenomenal pressure for the referees and I don't think it's fair."