GAA Football

Wider discussion needed on "roles and responsibilities": Hassan

David Hassan, Chairman of the Standing Committee on Playing Rules. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

A WIDER discussion is needed about the “roles and responsibilities” of all the major stakeholders in making Gaelic football a more attractive sport, believes the chairman of the Standing Committee on Playing Rules.

David Hassan, who heads the committee which will next weekend see a decision made on its five proposed rule changes ahead of the National Leagues, feels the debate has morphed into a ‘committee versus managers and players’ discussion.

Revealing that just a third of inter-county managers engaged with their work before the recommendations were implemented, Hassan says that rule changes alone will not have the desired effect.

“There is a danger in all this that the rule changes are seen as the panacea to all of the game’s problems. To some extent, it’s like a single item agenda,” said the former Derry goalkeeper.

“There needs to be a wider discussion about the role that other contributors to the game have to play in seeking to deliver some of the things people would like to see change – that it would be a faster, more offensive style of game.

“In that regard, the rule changes are one factor, but there’s how the games are refereed, how teams are coached and to what extent is there a competitive balance within the competitions that are being played.

“The [SCPR] has a mandate to bring forward any proposed rule recommendations. They are doing their end of the bargain.

“From what I understand, there’s a mood abroad to have a wider discussion involving all those that contribute to the spectacle, and what their roles and responsibilities are in that regard.”

Brushing off the heavy and often stinging criticism that has come the way of the Standing Committee in recent weeks, Hassan said that the views of managers are “very much valued” but feels that even those who are opposed to the rules in their current form are not necessarily against the overall idea of change.

“Even those managers who are opposed to the rules, who are absolutely entitled to a view and it’s very much valued, many of them have cited the concept of the spectacle, how the games actually look.

“There’s a recognition, even by those that are opposed to it, that the spectacle isn’t always a good one. So it comes back to the question: what sort of game do we actually want?

“In terms of the SCPR, when it carried out its consultation initially with county boards, very many of them made reference to handpassing.

“So it was either restricting the number of handpassing, or things like not handpassing it backwards. On one hand the consultation was pointing us in a certain direction, and on the other you had this data – independently sourced – that indicated over the last seven years there’s grown over more than 100 extra handpasses per game.

“We know there’s a handpass now at inter-county level every eight or nine seconds. There’s also declining attendances at the inter-county game in 2018.

“When you have those concerns in front of you, and people saying they’re concerned about the spectacle of the game, you do need to look at what will enhance the game.

“By way of enhancement, that’s speeding it up and talking about a more offensive style of football, and putting the ball in contest to a much greater extent.

“Even those who are opposed to the rules as they have been proposed, there is this concern about how the game actually looks as a spectacle. Ultimately, these are the proposals of the SCPR.

“What we would encourage is a wider debate about what sort of game do we want?”

The committee will put its findings, which will be collated by GAA data analyst Rob Carroll, before Central Council on January 19, when the final decision regarding their longer-term implementation will be made.

The limit of three consecutive handpasses has attracted the majority of interest and is likely to be the most keenly debated, with the likes of Declan Bonner revealing last weekend he is so confident of its rejection that his team has not been training in adherence with the new rule.

“If I was a manager of an inter-county team, my primary concern is a team and a pattern of play. You get comments like ‘sitting down in Croke Park’ and so on, I’m a volunteer doing this in a voluntary capacity, but I don’t deny people their views.

“I imagine they’re asked their view in an impromptu way and they give an honest response, I wouldn’t be critical of them for that,” said Hassan.

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