Match bans 'not soft on discipline'
THE GAA has insisted that despite figures showing how the replacement of time suspensions with match bans could dramatically reduce the number of games players miss, there is no easing up on discipline.
"Absolutely not. Under the new system, every player who is eligible for a suspension will miss at least one game. That wasn't the case in the past, where up to one-third of those who were suspended never missed a game," said Feargal McGill, GAA head of games administration.
That situation arose over an anomaly where players, who were suspended following incidents in their last outing in a particular competition, served no ban because they had no game in the suspension period, while technical difficulties arose over carrying forward suspensions to subsequent competitions.
"It's against that background that the motion was put before Congress last April, proposing the replacement of time bans with match bans in league and senior championship on a trial basis this year," added McGill.
However, while the new system may guarantee that players who are eligible for suspension miss at least one game, the timing of the ban could leave them much better off than under the old arrangements.
That's due to the wide variation between the number of games played at different times of the year.
There is also some surprise that a player guilty of offences as serious as striking, kicking, spitting at an opponent and abusing a referee will escape with a one-match ban under the new arrangement. Previously, he would serve a four-week suspension.
McGill said: "This is new territory and we're stressing that it's a trial system which will be reviewed at the end of the year.
"If the match-ban concept is seen as a success, it's always possible to review the number of games a player misses for a particular offence."
How a player who would have missed seven games for an offence in 2011 will miss just two games this year.