Cooney insists assessors not ‘punishment’ for refs
GAA president Christy Cooney has denied that the performances of referees suffer due to the presence of an assessor, stating they are "purely there to assist referees".
Cooney was responding to suggestions that, ahead of the championship season, referees had been advised to make decisions on merit and not in fear of losing points in the eyes of the assessor, who effectively decides whether that referee will be entrusted with one of the GAA's showpiece events.
The referee assessor's role came back into focus after it was reported that one official, who is on the 18-strong championship panel, had lost two points in his assessment because one of his umpires was wearing a hat when guidelines state that all umpires should be uniformly dressed.
"They have always been told (not to worry about the assessor)," said Cooney. "That is nothing new. That is a red herring that comes up every now and again.
"The assessment isn't there as a form of punishment or a big stick. It is there as a form of support, as a learning and development process to enhance the skills of our referees."
Alterations in playing rules and directives from Croke Park have caused confusion in the past. The application of the handpass rule caused furore as it was given an unprecedented level of attention by officials in the early part of last season.
And in 1999, the first year the GAA introduced the use of red and yellow cards, experienced Cork referee Niall Barrett flashed 20 cards, including six reds, when Westmeath met Carlow in the Leinster championship.
This year, Croke Park made it clear that "technical fouls" such as taking of a line ball from behind the sideline, would be policed more rigorously.
But Cooney is confident that refereeing standards have improved dramatically over the past decade.
"That is not to say that a referee will not make a mistake. Of course they will," he said.
"They are human beings, but overall our standard of refereeing -- our levels of fitness and the quality of the decision making -- has improved enormously and I think our referees, above anyone in our game, are able to look at their performance, be honest about their own performance and do what they have to do to improve."
Cooney also insisted that provincial councils will make their own decisions on whether to switch their matches to avoid clashes with other major sporting events. Some GAA championship fixtures clash with the Champions League final between Manchester United and Barcelona on May 28.