GAA propose new headgear rule in bid to avoid player injury claims
THE GAA has summoned a Special Congress for next Saturday to change its rules so that hurlers are made solely responsible for wearing approved helmets and faceguards during games and in training.
Under existing rules, the responsibility for ensuring that players wear proper headgear rests with the referee, a situation that leaves the GAA open to claims if a player suffers an injury while using equipment which doesn't reach proper standards or has been modified in any way.
A briefing note, sent from Croke Park to Central Council delegates, stresses the urgency of amending the rule.
"The rationale is to remove the onus that is at present on the referee and put it fairly and squarely on the shoulders of the players, or their parents, guardians or other persons legally responsible for them," states the briefing note.
"There is no point exempting the referee and putting the onus on the bainisteoir (manager) or the lead official as the GAA will ultimately be liable."
It's also proposed to insert a new rule stating that referee and other officials have no legal duty to ensure that the helmets/faceguards are up to the required standards.
The explanation for inserting this rule is, according to the Croke Park memo, based on the need to protect the GAA from claims by players who sustain injuries while wearing sub-standard or modified headgear.
"While it cannot be guaranteed that it removes liability entirely, it will certainly present an extra stumbling block and a deterrent to any prospective litigants," notes the memo.
The need for the rule change arises from some players not wearing top quality helmets and/or modifying the helmet's faceguard by removing one or more bars.
Under current rules, it is the referee's responsibility to ensure that all helmets comply with approved standards, which is clearly very difficult in a match situation.
The GAA feared that while that rule remained in place, it would be legally responsible if a claim arose and are now determined to place the onus for wearing proper headgear with the players themselves.
The Special Congress will be made up exclusively of Central Council members, who will also meet on Saturday to finalise the formats for next year's Allianz Hurling Leagues.
Central Council are not empowered to change rules – hence the hastily assembled Special Congress.