Tuesday 21 November 2017

The GAA rule changes

Referee Eddie Kinsella with his black book, red and yellow cards before the start of the game between Carlow and Longford Matt Browne/SPORTSFILE
Referee Eddie Kinsella with his black book, red and yellow cards before the start of the game between Carlow and Longford Matt Browne/SPORTSFILE

In 2014 the GAA will introduce changes to some of the rules and regulations to Gaelic football that have been around for decades.

In 2014 the GAA will introduce changes to some of the rules and regulations to Gaelic football that have been around for decades.

Some of the rules are more so clarifications than rule changes but there are new elements coming into our game next year and unless every single player, supporter, mentor, and official, knows exactly what is happening, there will be war.

That's no exaggeration as the new 'Black Card' is something no football player has ever experienced before, the advantage rule, where play can be brought back after a foul has never been seen before and finally, after all of Kieran McGeeney's asking the GAA have defined the tackle in Gaelic football.

Here are the six big changes which take effect on January 1 next year and will also be applicable to the club All-Ireland series.

1. Introduction of a Black Card for Cynical Behaviour Fouls.

2. Change in the number of substitutes allowed.

3. Distinction between Deliberate and Accidental Fouls.

4. Definition of the Tackle.

5. Introduction of a clearer Advantage Rule.

6. A player in possession may score a point with an open-handed hand-pass.


It makes most sense to start with the biggest change first and that is hands down the black card.

The 'Sean Cavanagh Incident' hardly needs any more publicity but during the summer it highlighted a tackle that defines the above mentioned 'Cynical Behaviour Foul'.

Cavanagh received a yellow card on the day and by the letter of the law that was the correct decision however were the same tackle to happen in 2014 Cavanagh would receive a Black Card and this will mean he will leave the field of play.

The following are a list of the specific cynical fouls:

1. Deliberately pull down an opponent.

2. Deliberately trip an opponent with the hand(s), arm, leg or foot.

3. Deliberately body collide with an opponent after he has played the ball away or for the purpose of taking him out of a movement of play.

4. Threaten or to use abusive or provocative language or gestures to an opponent or a teammate.

5. Remonstrate in an aggressive manner with a match official.

The Cavanagh incident was clearly number one above and a deliberate trip should be straight forward enough to most people but number three is probably going to be the biggest difference in 2014.

If you "stop the runner" as is often heard at football matches these days by body checking or colliding, then a black card will be issued.

If a player is shown a black card he is effectively sent off but can be replaced by a substitute. This brings to light the new change in the amount of subs that can be introduced which is going from five to six.

The first three players to be shown black cards can be replaced by a sub but this is counted as using three of your six permitted substitutes and if a fourth player gets a black card, he will be sent from the field of play without being replaced.

If a player is sent off via a black card, his replacement may join the game at a break in play.

Shortly we will deal with red and yellow cards but for now it is important to note that for a player who gets a yellow card and subsequently gets a black card, he is then shown a red card and must leave the field of play without being replaced.


Red cards remain the same but to refresh people's minds here are the fouls for which a red card is warranted.

1. Striking or attempting to strike with arm, elbow, hand, knee or head.

2. Kicking or attempting to kick with minimal force or with force or causing injury.

3. Behaving in any way which is dangerous to an opponent.

4. Spitting at an opponent.

5. Contributing to a melee.

6. Stamping.

7. Inflicting injury recklessly.

8. Abusive language towards a Referee, Umpire, Linesman or Sideline Official.

Football people should note that while abusive language to an official is a straight red card, to remonstrate with a match official in an aggressive manner is a black card, and this will be explained in greater detail below.

Yellow cards will now be shown for the following reasons

1. To block or attempt to block with the boot when an opponent is kicking the ball from the hand(s).

2. To prevent or attempt to prevent an opponent from lifting or kicking the ball off the ground by striking an opponent's hand, arm, foot or leg with the boot.

3. To engage in any other form of rough play.

4. To attempt to achieve an advantage by feigning a foul or injury.

The above are all currently existing Yellow Card Infractions.

Wicklow referee's Craig Cahill of Avondale and Kieron Kenny of Tinahely were kind enough to share their views and expertise on the new rules and they recently attended an intense training course in relation to the new rules.

Craig Cahill says the new rules make sense but they don't eradicate some of the problems that were already there.

"They are big changes in fairness and they make sense but a big problem is that so many of the players don't know the current rules as they stand and now we are asking them to adhere to changes in the rules, so I think there are going to be a few arguments over this at the start, but that can be avoided if players, supporters and mentors familiarise themselves with the new changes" said Craig.

His colleague Kieron Kenny had a similar view.

"I must say I was very sceptical of the new rules when I first read them but after the course the other night I was very impressed and there is no doubt that if implemented correctly the new rules allow for better, more attacking football and I think a big word is protection.

"The reason I say that is because high fielding players, ball carriers and skilful player are being protected from cynical fouling and that will be massive and then with some of the other rules it has been made much easier for a referee to make a decision and that in turn protects him too, in relation to the advantage rule and defining the tackle" suggested Kieron

Both referee's had strong views on the awarding of a black card for "remonstrating" with an official in an aggressive manner but both were along the same vein.

While a player may not use abusive language toward an official should he be "in the referee's face" or invading the official's personal space or acting in a way that the official deems to be an aggressive manner, that player will receive a black card.

This is an interesting development as before, if foul language was used toward a referee, they were often reluctant to show a straight red as it lead to slight complications between supporters not being able to tell why a man has been sent off, to the specific wording in reports etc.

But in this instance, a player who is being over aggressive, or making the official uncomfortable in anyway can be sent from the field for the remainder of that game without necessarily getting a suspension.

This is perhaps no harm as often players don't realise they are being aggressive and react suddenly to an instant. This is also unacceptable but rather not deserving of a suspension.

The 'noting' or 'ticking' fouls have not changed.

1. To hold an opponent with the hand(s).

2. To use the fist on or around the body of an opponent for the purpose of dispossessing him of the ball.

3. To charge an opponent in the back or to the front.

4. To charge an opponent:

i. Who is not in possession of the ball, or

ii. Is in the act of kicking the ball, or

iii. If both players are not moving in the direction of the ball to play it.

5. To charge an opponent for the purpose of giving an advantage to a team-mate.

Noting Infractions remain unchanged – Two notings result in a caution (yellow card) with a third resulting in an Order Off (second Yellow, followed by Red).

Note: To charge an opponent does not include a side to side shoulder charge with one foot on the ground, if one player is in possession of the ball he may be challenged this way even if in the act of kicking the ball.


The Tackle is re-defined as:

Tackle is a skill by which a player may dispossess an opponent or frustrate his objective within the Rules of Fair Play. The tackle is aimed at the ball, not the player. The tackler may use his body to confront the opponent but deliberate bodily contact (such as punching, slapping, arm holding, pushing, tripping, jersey pulling or a full frontal charge) is forbidden. The only deliberate physical contact can be a Fair Charge i.e. Shoulder-to-shoulder with at least one foot on the ground. More than one player can tackle the player in possession."

This rule is self explanatory but a few points are worth noting according to our Wicklow referee's.

Craig Cahill points out something that will no doubt upset defensive minded teams.

"It is physically impossible for three or four players to attempt to tackle one, without touching the player, if all three or four have a hand in looking to dispossess that player, while there is no problem with group defending in theory, they will have to be very disciplined in order to only hit the ball and not the man, it can be hard for referee's to spot but at least now there is a definition there for the official to work off," offered Cahill.

Kieron Kenny felt that this would benefit more attacking teams.

"Unless defenders become very precise in their tackling they are going to concede fouls and this means that teams trying to play nice attacking football will benefit more, I'm only sorry they didn't introduce "The Mark" as I thought that was a great benefit and a good way to reward the skill of high fielding," added Kenny.

Avondale referee Cahill says there is no excuse for any football supporter not to know the new rules inside and out.

"It's all over the GAA website, it's in the papers, there are videos on YouTube, all the club referees now know the rules inside and out and I can guarantee you any Wicklow referee will have no problem going to his own club or a neighbouring club and going through the rules in detail for the benefit of our games," suggested Craig.


For a number of years now referees by their own accord have been allowing 'advantage' to a player in possession and more recently the GAA introduced a certain amount of definition to 'advantage' but while the referee could hold his hand up and instruct play on, that was all he could do, if no advantage was forthcoming and the player lost possession the referee had no authority to bring play back for a free, now however, he can.

Advantage Rule is defined as:

"When a foul is committed the referee may allow the play to continue if he considers it to be to the advantage of the offended team. He shall signal that advantage by raising an arm upright. If he deems no advantage to have occurred, he may subsequently award a free for that foul from where it occurred. The referee shall allow the advantage to run by maintaining his arm in the upright position for up to five seconds after the initial foul or for less time if it becomes clear that no advantage has accrued. He shall apply any relevant disciplinary action."

Let's look at an example of the advantage rule that will no doubt cause murder at a match somewhere.

Take a player running towards goal who is within shooting distance and he is being fouled but manages to get away from the offender. The referee raises his hand in the air and allows the player five seconds.

If the five seconds elapses and the player shoots and misses, his advantage was over and play should not be brought back. However, if he shoots and misses within the five seconds play can be brought back for the appropriate foul.

The final couple of rules to be dealt with are the compulsory wearing of gum shields at all levels and the scoring of a point with the open hand.

The latter is something that was probably being allowed in many cases but has now being clarified for the benefit of all but the mouth guard or gum shield one could be interesting in some cases.

If a player is not wearing gum shields and this comes to the attention of the referee, the official must ask the player to put them in, of for any reason the player does not do this he shall be shown a yellow card.

If the same thing happens again, the same punishment will occur and the player will be sent off, in theory within a matter of seconds.

All in all 2014 is going to be an interesting year but for the benefit of all Gaelic football fans, it's in your interest to know these rules.

Bray People

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