Tuesday 24 October 2017

Rule change paranoia just doesn't stack up

GAA's comprehensive bid to educate bosses and players leaves no room for excuses

Eugene McGee

Eugene McGee

All those team managers who were worried last spring that referees officiating at football games from January 1, 2014, when new rule changes kick in, would not be able to count the number of different cards, can relax.

The refs will still only have to count up to two because the famous black cards that are the centrepiece of the rule changes from January will not actually be required.

Referees for some time now have been issued with standard small black covered notebooks in which they enter the various details about what takes place in games such as scores, bookings and related matters. From next January the refs will simply flash their notebooks in the air when somebody has committed one of the new cynical fouls and other offences.

That means, of course, that the culprits who break any of the new rules will not be technically issued with a new black card but will be shown the referee's black book instead. Now many a player over the years has been in somebody's black book for one misdemeanour or another so adding some more names next year will be nothing unusual for most of them.

That means that football referees will still only have yellow and red cards to cope with which will be appreciated by all those critics who told us the refs would never be able to handle all these cards.

In recent weeks, and on an ongoing basis, a massive information exercise has been under way to inform and educate referees all over the country on the rule changes which in reality are quite few in number despite all the hullaballoo earlier this year.

An excellent DVD presented by Pat McEneaney and Dave Coldrick explaining everything is available on the GAA and several other websites including those of most county boards. High-profile referees are visiting every county to discuss the changes and no stone is being left unturned to make sure that everybody in football, including spectators, understands the changes.

When previous rule changes were proposed the big complaint from some managers and players was that they were never told about them.

That was all nonsense and any serious manager or player would have made sure he knew the changes beforehand. This is even more important in 2014 for, while previous changes were only on an experimental basis and therefore not taken too seriously by some football activists, it is very different this time.

The GAA Congress last March voted in these changes very decisively. The voting included: cynical behaviour 71pc; deliberate pulling down 88pc; tripping etc 85pc; deliberately body colliding (third-man tackle) 84pc; provocative or abusive language or gestures to players 83pc: to remonstrate in an aggressive manner with a match official 81pc. These were unusually high percentages for any major change at a GAA Congress.

All the changes are now permanently set into the football rules so trial periods are a thing of the past.

Most sensible managers and players, of course, will prepare properly for the changes to ensure their performances are not disrupted from January 1 and I'm sure many of them will be coming up with plans to make positive use of the new rules such as the new authentic advantage rule.

Irish Independent

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