Friday 15 November 2019

Decision makers cannot ignore the voice of their own people

Armed with more than 4,000 submissions and over 70pc of backing for each of the proposals they have made, the Football Review Committee had to be confident that they were reflecting the view of the common GAA person when they made their work of the last six months public.

In this respect they are somewhat different from any other previous committee that convened with terms of reference to review and change.

"This is the Association speaking," said GAA director general Paraic Duffy while GAA president Liam O'Neill felt it was the most extensive trawl ever undertaken by any organisation.

The proposals made are practical and achievable. The committee opted not to over-stretch itself with anything too dramatic.

Previous committees have sometimes attempted too much, too soon on an Association that is traditionally cautious about change.

The FRC's proposals in 1999 eventually led to the evolution of qualifiers but their plans were initially thwarted, while the 2007 taskforce report on player welfare failed with their headline proposal of merging the minor and U-21 grades into an U-19 grade. This time there are no significant "bombshells" as FRC chairman Eugene McGee described them.

Many of the proposals have had outings at previous GAA Congress gatherings before. We can recall a motion to the 2000 Congress in Galway calling for an advantage rule to be introduced that didn't even register a comment from the floor before being soundly beaten.

The mandatory substitution of yellow-carded players was out before too, as was the mark, while the accumulation of yellow cards leading to a suspension was in the pipeline anyway thanks to new software which the GAA are testing. Even the clock had a previous airing two years ago but was shelved because of potential cost.

A motion change to stop local Competition Controls Committees having their decisions on fixtures being overturned by a two-thirds county board majority is a very positive development.

This time these proposals don't just have committee approval, they have a majority of people's approval too.

McGee described Gaelic football as "rock solid". He noted how inter-county football was considered either "good" or "very good" by 75pc of those who undertook the survey.

Too much change wasn't required and that is reflected in the document. It is not a dramatic shake-up of the game and won't change it significantly but it is co-ordinated to root out cynicism and help it to flow a little more.

Some may question the idea of a clean pick-up when the existing pick-up is considered a skill of the game, while the mark rewards a particular skill that the committee felt needed more exposure. But does it deserve to be rewarded more than a great block, for instance?

Given the nature of GAA politics, not all of the proposals will become a reality. But the decision makers at various county board meetings and ultimately at Congress next March will do well to recall that this is not the work of a nine-man review committee or a group of administrators in Croke Park.

It is the voice of their own people speaking loudly. It is an effective plebiscite, the results of which surely cannot be ignored.

Irish Independent

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