Referee David Gough unconvinced about viability of newly-introduced mark
All-Ireland final referee believes new rule will be difficult to implement correctly
David Gough: “I can see important decisions being made by referees, which will be shown to be incorrect on TV when they take out their arrow and measuring tape.” Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
All-Ireland final referee David Gough is pessimistic about the prospects for the newly-introduced advance mark, which comes into force for 2020 having been trialled during this year’s league, and feels “important decisions” are in danger of being shown up as incorrect by television analysts.
The Meath official was speaking in Abu Dhabi during the PwC All Stars trip and said whereas officials have become accustomed to gauging 13 metres for restart monitoring, the new rule which awards a free kick to anyone catching a ball that has been kicked at least 20 metres from outside the 45-metre line is a different matter.
“We – umpires as well as referees – have a good understanding as match officials of what 13 metres is but now we’re being asked to judge 20 metres. The added difficulty with that is that when we’re asked as referees to judge on 13 metres, the ball is always stationary.
“It’s really, really difficult. And also with the markings on the field – during the national league it’s incredibly wet and it’s very rare you’d have good days for football in Ireland.
“You can’t see the lines; you’ve no idea where the ball is being kicked out. I can see important decisions being made by referees, which will be shown to be incorrect on TV when they take out their arrow and measuring tape.”
Making a mistake is especially frustrating, as referees are accused of being wrong so often.
“The fallout from making a mistake in high-profile matches is huge. Most of the time, definitely the people in the crowd don’t know why you made a particular decision. They don’t a have a real appreciation of the rules.
“The players have become a bit better educated but not to the extent you’d like. We can make anything up to 300–400 decisions in a game. It never stops. The number of steps a player took, did he hop it twice? Was that contact shoulder to shoulder? It’s constant.”
Another problem he foresees is his instinct to look towards goal to spot any fouling.
“During the national league trials this year I was one of the referees caught out a good few times awarding the advance mark even though the ball hadn’t been kicked outside of the 45-metre line. So I wasn’t concerned with the player taking the kick and it was the linesman who had to inform me that the ball hadn’t been delivered from outside the 45.”
At the special congress in Cork that passed the playing rules change, GAA president John Horan said he had been surprised at the lack of debate on the subject before acceptance.
According to Gough, referees are discussing ways of combating feigned injuries in matches. He says that some players are pretending to have head injuries, which necessitates immediate stoppage of the match and that the current rule making the simulation a yellow-card infraction, which has been rarely used, may need to be enforced.
“We’re also in talks at the moment among ourselves within the referees to see if there’s a viable solution to ensure that if a player is going down and claiming a head injury that they are removed from the field of play to be treated because there’s no other field sport in the world that allows a player to remain on the field after a head injury.”
The matter is also of relevance in the context of the new punishment for black-card infractions. It has been disclosed that the clock won’t stop for injury delays during the 10 minutes of the sin-bin.
“The clock doesn’t stop for the player in the sin-bin,” says Gough. “So if you had a player down with a head-injury for anything up to four minutes that eats into the sin-bin time.”
He also reflects on the physical demands of the job and how it can pressurise a referee’s decision-making.
“Sometimes people don’t see that. We run more than players – around 11kms in Croke Park and the bigger stadiums. Our heart rate monitors tell us, mine can go up to 202 beats per minute. If you think, you’ve maybe 100 metres at between 27 and 30 kilometres per hour.
The blood is going everywhere else in the body to keep your legs going and you have one split second to make a decision that you might not have a great view of. You’re trying to control the mind to make those decisions. It’s extremely difficult.”
However Gough isn’t enthusiastic about the idea of a second referee, which is sometimes advanced as a necessary change in Gaelic games.
“The fascinating thing about refereeing is that we’re all trained the same and all trying to implement the same rule but we all have different personalities and that’s the cause of inconsistency. We all have different styles.
“You could end up with one referee refereeing the game entirely differently in one half of the field and another in the other. It would cause mayhem.”