The GAA must give its “full backing” to the new football rules coming into force in January 2014, according to one of the senior referees involved in the roll-out of the rules and an accompanying education campaign.
All-Ireland referee David Coldrick, who together with National Referees Committee chair Pat McEnaney spoke at yesterday's launch of the changes in Croke Park, said that pressure may well come on the new rules in the early matches of next season but added that their status as actual - as opposed to experimental - rules would be significant.
“The difficulty with experimental rules is that people don’t really think they’ll end up in the rule book and they’ll have plenty of opportunity to work against them. These are there; they’re in the rule book to stay and that’s why now everybody needs to get on with it and not just referees. It’s players, management, spectators etc
“This came out of the football review and the feedback from right across the organisation. Democratically the change was looked for and that is what the guys have brought in. As in the past even with the experimental rules, whether these are a success or failure will be up to the wider GAA organisation.
“Referees will go out there and they will implement the new rules as they’ve been laid down and whatever happens at the end of that - and obviously, referees are behind these rule changes - once the association gives its full backing to these rules, there’ll be no issue from a refereeing point of view.”
Asked what he meant by the “full backing” of the GAA, he explained:
“As someone said there’s no doubt in that first month or two that maybe - and it’s hard to know until they’re in practice - teams finishing with 13 players a side or whatever, then maybe the pressure will come on - that maybe this isn’t the right way for the organisation to go. There’s a possibility that that will happen in the first month or two, as it did with the old experimental rules.
“Players, teams, management - they will get up to speed with the rules and once we get across that period it will just become part of the game - and I’ve no reason to doubt the GAA’s backing for these rules, once that backing remains steadfast throughout that early period.”
McEnaney said that he would be pushing for the most experienced match officials to be appointed to the January pre-season tournaments in order to give the rules as smooth an introduction as possible,
“I think that is one of the things we will push for, particularly in the O’Byrne Cup, McKenna Cup competitions - that we will kick the season off because there will be a number of club referees attending those games.
“You will always fear that something might go wrong but even if you go back to last year with the square ball rule - people questioned if we were going to have a lot of problems with goalkeepers’ being injured and a lot of chaos in around the square. It didn’t materialise.”
Coldrick assessed the number of cynical fouls in an inter-county match as on average, around three generally committed in the last few minutes of matches but also said that the biggest challenges would be those facing club referees.
McEnaney said that he felt the new advantage rule would be an addition to hurling even though it’s being introduced only in football initially.
“It’s something I would like (to see) transplanted into hurling. I think it’s a good rule, if you talk to our national hurling referees at the moment - the five-second advantage rule, they would like it.”
Unveiling the education plan, Croke Park's games administration officer Pat Doherty said that it would be mandatory for inter-county referees either to attend one of the courses being delivered in all counties by 11 panels consisting of one championship referee and one senior refereeing administrator or else take the e-learning course, available on www.learning.gaa.ie.
An educational video is available on www.gaa.ie/rules.
GAA president Liam O’Neill said that the new rules were about meeting the challenge of the future and emphasised the importance of referees after what he described as a summer featuring “one of the best football seasons and the best hurling season”.
Football Rule Changes
(Agreed by 2013 annual congress)
Coming into force: 1st January 2014
1: Introduction of a black card for cynical fouls (player ordered off but may be replaced by substitute - up to a maximum of three
2: Number of substitutes allowed will be six instead of five
3: Distinction between deliberate and accidental fouls
4: Updated definition of the tackle
5: Introduction of a new advantage rule (referee may bring back play after up to five seconds)
6: Points may be scored by an open-handed - as well as a fisted - hand pass.