Why do rules need to be interpreted?
I had a very interesting chat with Brian McAlinden late last week, during which former Armagh goalkeeper (one of the best never to win an All-Ireland), who went on to manage the county in 1998-2001, raised a query which, I have to admit, has baffled me too for years.
"Why do we need to have interpretation of rules as opposed to just having rules? A rule is a rule. It says what you can and can't do, or at least it should.
"So why do we need interpretations? You hear about how referees interpret rules differently. I don't understand why that's happening. Apply the rules as they're written - it should be simple enough," he said.
McAlinden is right. Yet this interpretation confusion has gone on for years. Perhaps the problem rests in the way rules are worded. In some cases, they are either complicated or vague or, worse still, an awful mixture of both.
For example, the rule on re-starting play after a foul in football has six exceptions, one of which is divided in A and B sections.
The rule on what a player in possession of the ball can do also has six sub-sections, one with two choices. The rulebook would benefit from a dramatic overhaul, aimed at making it more user-friendly.
It's something playing rules committee chairman Jarlath Burns might consider, although who wants to take on such a mind-numbing task?