Black card helping to open the floodgates for league's sharpshooters
NOT only was the number of yellow cards in football dramatically reduced by the introduction of black cards this season, but the new disciplinary tweak has also coincided with radically improved scoring rates.
The hope was that black cards would cut down on repetitive fouling, especially the sort that saw forwards cynically hauled down when they were clean through to score.
Earlier this week the Irish Independent's statistical breakdown demonstrated the dramatic reduction in yellow cards in this year's Allianz Football League – more than halved from 918 in 2013 to 425 this season, with just 90 additional black cards shown under the new rules.
Statistics from the GAA's Central Competitions Control Committee now also show that scoring levels also appear to have been positively affected by the measures taken to rid the game of repetitive fouling. There has been a 10pc increase in the number of scores per game since last year's league and the number of points per game has increased on average by five since four years ago.
The average goals per game this year was 2.38, compared to 1.79 last year and 1.62 in 2012. The average number of points in games has also increased, recorded at 25.62 in this year's group games, compared to less than 24 in 2013 and less than 21 in 2011.
Scoring rates have been steadily on the rise for the last 20 years, but the improvements this year have been the most incremental and brought that gain to 40pc over the past 20 years.
In the 1993-'94 season the aggregate score total in the NFL was 23.15 points, with an average of 1.57 goals and 18.45 points. Ahead of this year's play-offs the aggregate is almost 10 points more at 32.77 points.
The GAA have confirmed that the number of cards (yellow, black and red) flashed in this year's league comes to an average of just 4.89 per match, compared to 8.32 last year, when only yellow and red existed.
Despite all the negative predictions that black cards would be waved about like confetti and cause havoc for players and managers, the average number shown during the group stages of the league was 0.8 per game.
The new disciplinary initiative certainly seems to have stopped players from fouling recklessly. The number of single yellows this year dropped from 7.78 per game to 3.79.
The number of double yellows went from 0.36 to 0.18 and the average number of red cards went from 8.32 to 4.89, with just 13 reds shown in the 112 group games to date, compared to 21 for the same period last year.
The statistics have shown how 27 of 90 black cards came in the final 10 minutes (plus injury-time) of games whereas they occurred far less in the opening 20 minutes and tended to increase incrementally with each 10-minute block of a match.
Five were shown in the first 10 minutes of games and only an additional eight came in the next 10 minutes, whereas 55 of all black cards were brandished between the 40th minute and the final whistle. Only three counties – Dublin and Westmeath in Division 1 and Monaghan in Division 2 – avoided picking up any black cards; Down and Antrim saw the most (six each).
There were 26 black cards accumulated in Division 3 and 28 in Division 4, compared to 17 in Division 1 and 18 in Division 2.
2013 League (average per game) – Yellow cards (7.78); Double Yellows (0.36); Black (N/A); Red (0.18). Total: 8.32.
2014 League (average) – Yellow cards (3.79); Double Yellows (0.18); Black (0.8); Red (0.12). Total: 4.89.
Growth in average scoring rates in National Football Leagues
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