Tuesday 19 March 2019

Referees' difficulty in counting handpasses a factor in trial rejection

GAA President John Horan. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
GAA President John Horan. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

The difficulty referees had in counting handpass sequences and the focus it took from other aspects of their job was a central factor in the trial (restricting sequences to three handpasses) being abandoned ahead of the beginning of the football league, GAA President John Horan has suggested.

Horan oversaw the Central Council debate which ended with the experiment being binned by a 25-to-23 vote, praising the level of contribution from the floor and the statistics provided from the committee which oversaw its introduction.

And while the number of handpasses were down, and consequently the number of kick passes had increased, Horan said the mood of the meeting was that there had been too many unintended consequences.

"People felt that while it was statistically reducing the handpasses in the count, it wasn't actually doing what they were hoping it would do - and that was to break the actual blanket defence," he said.

"There was a good, long debate on it. The Gaelic Players Association had their opportunity to present the case that they had on behalf of the players.

"They had also talked to the managers and a survey was done of the referees as well. And then individuals who had attended matches actually offered their own personal experiences.

"Those that were for retaining it were of the view that maybe the trial period wasn't long enough. And that was a major part of their argument, more so than they said it necessarily was having a big impact or a change," Horan pointed out.

"Some people argued that the statistics were there that there was more kicking in the game, but then others talked about the quality of the kicking and (asked) was it really just kicking substituting handpassing going across the pitch or going backwards."

The added pressure on referees was acknowledged.

"They had a problem," Horan added.

"You have to be fair to referees. I think they were caught in a bind of adding up, one, two, three.

"And one of the side comments they made in regard to the handpass was because they had to focus, in a viewing sense, on the actual handpass, they were missing some off-the-ball stuff that could go on when they were doing the count.

"If a player goes on a solo run for 30 yards, the referee has one in his head and the next thing there is a handpass and he now has two, then another solo run.

"To me it was a bit of an unintended consequence that so much pressure was going to go on referees.

"At a time when we are talking about two referees, we add this. I think it was an influential factor."

Under rule, the GAA can't roll out further trials like this for another five years but that's something Horan thinks could be reviewed.

He said that banning the back-pass to the goalkeeper - something the previous rules committee considered - came to the debate late but could have been worth considering."

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