Top referees to roll out new 'black card' system
REFEREES' chief Pat McEnaney believes the 'black card' will put "the onus on players" to maintain their discipline ahead of its introduction on January 1.
The new rules, along with the introduction of mandatory gumshields, will see football undergoing its most significant change in years, with McEnaney insisting the regulations will improve football as a spectacle by helping to remove cynical play.
"It is not the great number (of cynical fouls), it's that they are not good for our game," said the Monaghan man.
"They are deliberate and we want to eradicate them. I don't believe it is going to cause us major concern, I think it is going to work pretty well.
"It is the player that is in control here – no player wants to get substituted. Nobody wants to come off the field. People talk about rotating players, but you also hear players regularly saying: 'I don't mind rotation as long as it is not me that's being rotated.' So, the onus is on the player."
The GAA are embarking on an ambitious education programme aimed at bringing the countries' referees up to speed on the new regulations. Croke Park have provided online learning aids as well as an in-person course which will be delivered in each of the 32 counties by a championship panel referee and a senior administrator between now and Christmas.
No referees will be allowed to take charge of a game until they have completed the course.
The club game will not be exempt from the new regulations, but, while Croke Park will dish out a one-game suspension for players who pick up three black cards in a season, county boards will not be asked to apply a similar sanction in a bid to reduce the amount of administration involved.
McEnaney also hopes to roll out the country's top officials for the pre-season competitions.
Traditionally a proving ground for up-and-coming refs, experienced whistlers are likely to be deployed in January to help ensure a smooth transition.
"That is one of the things we will push for, particularly in the O'Byrne Cup, McKenna Cup competitions – that (championship referees) will kick the season off, because there will be a number of club referees attending those games.
"Provincial Councils appoint referees, but I will be getting the message out that we want our top officials in charge of those games, people that have been involved in championship games, so that we start on a positive note."
In the past, disciplinary rule changes have been met with hostility. In 2009, current GAA president Liam O'Neill headed up a task force which introduced the sin bin, but it was defeated at Congress that year by just 2pc.
Referee David Coldrick expects a bedding-in period and he believes the new rules will be "part of the game" within a couple of months.
"There's no doubt that in that first month or two, where maybe we're seeing teams finishing with 13 players, the pressure may come on. But players and team managements will soon get up to speed with the rules and once we get across this opening period, it will become part of the game."
The 'advantage' rule has been tidied up to allow for five seconds of play and while McEnaney would like to see this regulation also applied to hurling, he sees no need for the other rule changes.
"In hurling I don't think it's prevalent; I don't think cynical fouling, the blatant pull down (is prevalent) ... the player having a hurl in one hand doesn't allow him to do this."
More information on the rule changes is available on www.gaa.ie/rules.