Sport Gaelic Football

Monday 19 March 2018

Disciplinary double standard for All-Ireland deserves red card

Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Full marks to the Football Review Committee for amending their harsh proposal to have players sent off for every yellow-card offence; no marks for treating the All-Ireland final as a special case in the disciplinary process.

Compromise should never be mistaken for weakness, so the FRC's decision to reclassify five aggressive offences which currently attract a yellow card, as transgressions which would merit dismissal (with a replacement allowed) under a new black-card arrangement makes sense, not least because it has a chance of being accepted. Dismissing players for every yellow-card offence, as originally proposed, was never going to be passed by Congress.

There will be reservations about adding a black card to the referees' armoury – it will be used to dismiss players for aggressive offences which fall short of red-card status – but if the GAA membership is serious about removing cynicism from the game, then it's worth a try.

After all, who can defend deliberately pulling down or tripping an opponent, deliberately body-checking an opponent after he has played the ball away, using abusive language to the opposition or remonstrating aggressively with a match official?

Under the latest FRC proposal, those misdemeanours will become black-card offences, with the culprit sent off for the remainder of the game and a replacement allowed.

The FRC's amendment is sensible, unlike their proposal to deem the All-Ireland final being different to other games in disciplinary matters. The FRC wants a player who picks up three double yellow cards or three black cards in the one year to serve a one-match suspension. It's a good move, since it would hit serial offenders.

Yet, for reasons which defy logic, the one-match ban would not apply to the All-Ireland final and would instead be carried forward to the following year. The argument that it would be harsh on a player to miss out on All-Ireland final for picking up multiple yellow cards previously is ridiculous.

Would it be harsh on a player from a weaker county if he missed out on a rare provincial final appearance in, perhaps, the one season for many years they made it that far? More specifically, would it be harsh on a Fermanagh (2004) or Wexford (2008) player if he missed the All-Ireland semi-final? It was a huge occasion for both counties after years of struggling to make a breakthrough, yet the FRC proposal would show no mercy.

However, forgiveness pours down on the player who finds himself in a similar situation for the All-Ireland final. It's an elitist call which should be rejected. Besides, it would make a mockery of the disciplinary rules to treat the All-Ireland final differently to other championship games.

That proposal apart, the amended package has plenty of merit. Its prospects of being accepted by Congress will be boosted by what happened at the 2009 Congress, where a broadly similar proposal failed by just eight votes.

It was carried on a 177-100 vote (64pc), falling an agonising 2pc short of the required two-thirds majority.

Irish Independent

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