Tuesday 26 September 2017

Motion on reform of qualifiers may be lost in translation

Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Major changes to the All-Ireland football qualifier format will be implemented next year if a long and complicated proposal is passed by Congress on Saturday.

Therein rests the problem, because there's a risk that the length and complexity of the motion will lead to so much confusion that the actual merits and de-merits of the plan will be lost in the labyrinth of sections, sub-sections and clauses.

Indeed, the motion may have set a world record for a proposed amendment to the running of a sporting event by extending to 1,053 words.

Frankly, a stray Zulu warrior visiting Derry next weekend would probably understand the Irish language translation of the country's Constitution as easily as the Congress agenda version of this particular motion, which has been submitted by the National Fixtures' Planning Committee.

An explanatory version was circulated to counties a few months ago, although it too can scarcely be described as 'simple'.

In fairness to the proposal's creators, they were operating off a difficult base, involving provinces with varying numbers of counties and a need to provide a more streamlined summer programme.

The basic aim of the plan is to re-configure the football qualifiers so that counties have a clearer picture of their championship programme before the start of the season, irrespective of whether they remain in the provincial race or are sent on a 'back door' mission.

Essentially, the proposal involves splitting qualifiers into two sections, as opposed to the open-draw system which currently applies.

"One of the biggest complaints we get from county boards over fixtures is that it doesn't matter how carefully they plan their club programme, the uncertainty over when the senior county team will be playing in summer makes it difficult to run local games," said Fergal McGill, GAA head of games.

"Every county knows when their first provincial game will be but after that there's uncertainty as they don't know whether they will still be in the provincial championship or in the qualifiers."

The new system, if approved, would alleviate that problem to some degree and would also end the controversial six-day turnaround for beaten provincial finalists heading into Round 4 of the qualifiers.

Among the key proposals is that, in most cases, a county which loses a provincial game would have a qualifier tie on the same date as the winners had their next provincial outing.

Under the existing system, there can be a wide variation between when provincial losers and winners are next in action.

Irish Independent

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