Black card plan could have lasting impact on GAA


Twenty-seven intercounty matches, one late postponement, a minor fixture backlog, dual players leaning one way or the other, another player abandoning the Australian Football League, players appealing against racist allegations, and the latest disciplinary proposal known as the “black card”.

Truth is most of these are the same issues that come and go, all of the time, practically every year, and sometimes every week, without fail: it’s the “black card” proposal that has the potential to make the lasting impact on the GAA landscape, or more specifically in tackling the so-called cynical foul, described this week as “crime number one” by Eugene McGee, chairman of the GAA’s Football Review Committee (FRC).

This wasn’t a throwaway remark: McGee’s report, published last month, was the culmination of eight long months addressing the views of nearly 4,000 people as variously communicated by the FRC website questionnaire (more than 3,000 replies), written submissions and focus groups around the country. On top of all that, the technical data from the forensic analysis of 61 match DVDs conducted over 1,500 hours in DCU.

What the FRC first proposed was initially dubbed the new “yellow card” offence, where a player receiving a yellow card would have to leave the field for the remainder of the match, with a replacement allowed. Teams that accumulated three cards in one match would not be able to replace any further players picking up yellow cards, while players who accumulated three yellow cards in the same year would be suspended for two matches.

Such was the concern, lingering confusion, and perhaps increasing awareness that the FRC proposal, as it stood, had little chance of making it through Congress in March, the GAA’s own Rules Advisory Committee came back on Tuesday with their modified proposal, isolating five of these so-called cynical foul plays, branding them with the new a “black card”, yet essentially resulting in the same mandatory substitution of the offending player.

For some it was a watering down of the proposal, but McGee disagreed: “Our proposal was always going to be rewritten in some way,” he said, “but the rationale and spirit, to punish cynical fouling, will remain the same.”

Managers’ reaction

Reaction from GAA managers is mixed: Dublin football manager Jim Gavin, cornered after his team saw off the challenge of DCU in Wednesday evening’s O’Byrne Cup, backed the proposal, yet wondered if the so-called “sin bin”, or temporary removal of the offending player, might be more broadly accepted. “I would like to see the sin bin coming back in. I think it’s about the most punitive measure. If teams are prepared to put players down, there’s only one way you can punish it – get the guy off.”

After Jim McGuinness was brought back down to earth, his Donegal team losing to Fermanagh in Wednesday’s Dr McKenna Cup, he made the point that some competitions, namely the Ulster football championship, could be more liable for these black cards, and that he “would have a problem with that in terms of the fairness of the system”.

New Louth football manager Louth Aidan O’Rourke suggested defenders might be obliged to “dive out of the way” to escape a black card, at least if the referee wasn’t close enough to make the proper call.

Indeed it could be argued that the last thing a referee needs is another different coloured card to worry about, and yet Pat McEnaney, chairman of the National Referees Committee, argues otherwise, and believes the black cards are sufficiently clear to ensure the job of the referee will actually be made easier: “We are happy to go with black cards,” he says, “because they are for pretty distinctive fouls, and will ease the pressure on referees. So I think it will make it clearer, and that it is a positive step.”

The GAA has confirmed that Tony O’Keeffe from Kerry has been appointed as chairman of the Central Competitions Control Committee until Congress 2015: he replaces Simon Moroney.

Black card The five infractions

The five infractions identified as new “black card” offences:

To deliberately pull down an opponent.

To deliberately trip an opponent with hand, arm or foot.

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

To use abusive or provocative language or gestures to players.

To remonstrate in an aggressive manner with a match official.

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