Sport

John McEntee: Four GAA rules in need of a serious revamp

The tackle needs clarity

I’VE been sharing my thoughts on the recent rule change and was rather unkindly reminded by a colleague of the number of times I’ve levelled harsh words against GAA officialdom without actually putting forward my own suggestions for rule changes.
I tend not to do acts of contrition. It’s just not me, so an apology is not forthcoming, not that one is required anyway in my view.  
Some people are great ambassadors, inspirational and innovative. They tend to come up with the ideas, the hows and the whys.
Others, like the humble part-time columnist, merely give  an opinion on their good work, so I’m certain few are bothered at all and fewer still are offended.
That said, I’ve pulled together what I consider to be rules worthy of changing and which can be done by a slip of the hand.

1: The kick-out

For the kick-out from goal after a wide the ball may be kicked from the hands or off the ground from the 13-metre line.
This rule has been operational with great effect in the women’s game. Added to this, I propose setting a maximum time for a kick-out to take place – say, 60 seconds. I realise that this complicates matters somewhat.  For example, when does the clock start, who is going to record the time? Well, most inter-county grounds boast a digital scoreboard.  
The umpire or the fourth official could be instructed to record the time lapse from the moment the umpire raises his hands to signal a wide.  
The penalty for undue delays would be a 13-metre free in.  
Too often a goalkeeper delays a restart to give his players a break or to waste time. This simple rule change would speed up the game and remove subtle cynicism without any loss of skill.

The black card needs amended

2. Amend the black card

I’m a fan of the concept of a ‘black card’. It’s just that its flagrant misuse or blind-sighted application by referees at the top level and at club level has placed the future of this rule in jeopardy.
The second key issue with this rule currently is that it is to cover five indiscretions.  
These should be reduced to three: deliberate pull-down, deliberate trip and deliberate body collision.  
The other two offences – remonstrating with an official and verbal abuse to another player – should receive an automatic red card.
Both those behaviours are indefensible and should be eradicated from our games.  
The third issue is that the punishment does not fit the crime.
A black card is fast becoming a badge of honour. Further deterrent is necessary.
Some time prior to 1995, a player who received a red card during the Championship season was ineligible for an Allstar award.
I feel that reintroducing this rule to include red cards and black cards might make players think twice before committing the offence.  
An Allstar should be for the best players who are also exemplars of everything good in the GAA.  An alternative deterrent may be to penalise the team by only permitting one black card indiscretion by a team in any one game.
A second black card would result in a sending off with no replacement permitted.

There should be public transparency at club level regarding decisions made by the referee which lead to suspensions for players

3. Public transparency regarding suspensions

A central tenet of the GAA disciplinary rulebook is that what the referee submits in his report is gospel unless proven otherwise.
I’ve always struggled to get my head around the fairness of this stance, whether I was the apparent aggressor or the manager defending a player’s innocence. My particular gripe is founded within the club scene as many games are not recorded and those that are recorded are typically done by an amateur cameraman who invariably misses the apparent incident.  
Referees are human, they make mistakes. Readers could cite dozens of examples from weekend matches when players are sidelined and the only person who knows why is the referee.
County boards should publish an annual report on the number of suspensions, the number upheld, the reasons for their overturning, and a breakdown on the number of red cards issued per club and per referee. Greater transparency will improve how the game is played and refereed.

4. Clarity on the tackle

Football is, and always has been, a physical game. Yet, as a player, it can be extremely frustrating when you have to adjust the way you play from week to week because of the way in which the game is going to be refereed.  
I really feel for the referees too as they need clarity.  
I used to thrive under Pat McEnaney because a player could express himself physically both in giving and receiving a hit.  Others despised Pat for the same reasons.
I guess defenders flourished under his style of refereeing, while gifted forwards had to really work hard for every score. With Pat, if you didn’t hold onto the ball it wasn’t a free.
For 15-plus years Pat was considered the best. His style never altered. As players, that consistency of approach was priceless. But other refs had different slants on the tackle and their application varied depending on many factors. It drives players crazy.  Establishing a working group comprised of past and present players would certainly be a good starting point.

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