Scale of the consultation and research provides GAA with ' template for the future'
Congress though will prove the acid test of the efficacy of report’s proposalsONE OF the most significant aspects of yesterday’s launch was director general Páraic Duffy’s comment that the work of the Football Review Committee had “provided the association with a template for the future”.
He was presumably referring to the scale of the consultation and research that had gone into addressing the issues raised about modern football. The level of consultation and forensic detail gave the FRC a formidable platform on which to base their recommendations.
This has created the precedent of intensely researched proposals, which allow recommendations to speak for themselves. It had always been made clear that the committee weren’t interested in running with dreamy solutions formulated without thought for their chances of actually being accepted.
That practical focus was so strong that according to one committee member there was no other issue apart from those raised in the report that the FRC believed would be desirable.
One of the most interesting aspects of the report is the section on the hand-pass, which led to no recommendation being made. Rather than a cop-out this decision looked like a sensible response to the data at the committee’s disposal.
Convincingly described as a trend rather than a core value of the game, the hand-pass was assessed for restriction by the committee but the reason behind making no recommendation was laid out:
“The view was expressed, in particular at focus group meetings, that to put a limit on the number of hand passes would be equivalent to playing a conditioned game. While it may have the desired effect of increasing kicking, there was no solid evidence that it would improve the quality of Gaelic football.
“Since the creation of the game certain styles have emerged and more recently these styles have evolved through the ingenuity of the coach/manager.”
There was also the interesting evidence that the hand-pass to kick-pass ratios had progressed from 1:1 in the 1970s to 1.8:1 in 2000 to 2.3:1 in 2010 but during the latter stages of this year’s All-Ireland championship the ratio dipped to 2.1:1.
Obliged to act
According to FRC chair Eugene McGee, were the ratio to stretch to 4:1 or 5:1 the GAA would be obliged to act. Significantly there was a substantial divergence in the demographics on this issue with 68 per cent of under-25s in favour of retaining the current hand-pass and just 24 per cent in the over-65s.
That effectively means that the GAA’s playing cohort is happy with the rule as it stands and presumably that had to have an impact on the thinking.
Before getting too ecstatic about the hard work, energy and judicious selection of topics demonstrated by the committee it has to be borne in mind that the gradualist approach of addressing the most pressing concerns of a wide constituency can only be judged a success if the proposals get through congress.
One of the dangers is that with a consultation process as broadly based as the one conducted by the FRC, the issues and solutions that emerged are of a broad church nature. Congress however is one of the GAA’s most conservative forums.
The stratagem of confining the ideas to football and in order to guard against the objections of those counties, which tend to see football as in need of remedies that hurling doesn’t require, might work – or it might simply trigger suspicions that the small-ball game is next in line for a shake-up.
However the achievement of the FRC – and Liam O’Neill, who has overseen the delivery of a substantial study in little more than six months of his presidency – is that they have done huge work to identify problems and shown exemplary focus in proposing sensible, evidence-based solutions.
Proposal:“Players issued with a yellow card should be subject to mandatory substitution for the remainder of the game.”
Proposal:“The mark should be introduced for any catch from a kick-out where the ball is caught cleanly on or past the 45 metre line.”
Proposal:A clean pick-up of the ball to be permitted, subject to the player being in an upright position, with at least one foot on the ground.