Monday 11 December 2017

Outdated rule book to let Twitter ref abusers off the hook

Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

GAA players who severely criticise referees via Twitter may be immune from sanction because of the wording of official match regulations.

One referee was accused of bias after last weekend's All-Ireland qualifiers while Louth's Derek Crilly described Derek Fahy's refereeing performance as 'disgraceful' on Twitter after the qualifier defeat by Westmeath. Other refs have have been attacked on Twitter since the start of the championship.

In theory, a player who severely criticises a referee can be charged with bringing the GAA into disrepute, but a defence could be launched on the basis that official match regulations clearly specify the circumstances under which action may be taken.

They state that any member of the official team party who makes "derogatory comment in relation to games officials before, during or after a game in interviews" can be dealt with under the disrepute sanction, which carries an eight-week suspension.

However, since Twitter comments are not given in interviews, bringing a charge could prove unsustainable. The match regulations were drawn up a few years ago before Twitter took off. It's likely the GAA will move to address the loophole for next year.

Meanwhile, as concerns grow over slippage in match-day presentation, caused by managers using subs other than the 11 listed on the programme, Croke Park has written to counties instructing them to adhere to the regulations.

Fans at many of this year's championship games have been frustrated by the arrival of subs not listed on the official 26 in the programme. It's a throwback to the sloppy old days and not in keeping with the GAA's attempt to present their games in a slick way.

"Apart from the fact that it shouldn't be happening in the first place, it's most unfair on the public," said Fergal McGill, GAA director of games.

Irish Independent

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