Provincial football competitions to herald new ‘black card’ era

In practice, referees’ notebook will actually double as the relevant black card

3 March 2010;
Referees  David Coldrick, Brian Gavin and chairman of the National Referees Committee Pat McEnaney at Croke Park. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

3 March 2010; Referees David Coldrick, Brian Gavin and chairman of the National Referees Committee Pat McEnaney at Croke Park. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile


The first rule of the new black card is that there is no black card. At least not in the strict sense, as the GAA reiterated yesterday in preparation for the grand premiere of the new football rules.

All four of the provincial football tournaments which get underway this weekend will be played under the new rules, which officially came into effect on January 1st. A small number of challenge games in recent weeks did feature the various playing and disciplinary changes, but they get their first widespread viewing this weekend – across 21 games, between the O’Byrne Cup (Leinster), Dr McKenna Cup (Ulster), FDB League (Connacht) and McGrath Cup (Munster).

But it was confirmed yesterday that there won’t actually be a black card for the new cynical behaviour fouls; instead, the referees’ notebook will effectively double as the black card, shown to the offending player to order him off the field, before allowing, in the first three instances only, a replacement player to be introduced.

In practice
Pat McEnaney, chairman of the National Referees Committee, says this weekend’s football tournaments will provide the first full marker as to how the new rules will work in practice.

“It is a great opportunity for everyone, referees, players and managers, to get comfortable with the changes, to sort out any differences we have, and be in an even stronger position going into the national league,” said McEnaney.

“When you have change, you always have people with fear. That’s a given. But people have had plenty of time to think about it by now. We’ve rolled it out across the country, so it’s been well-planned, well-structured, and if there are still a few gaps there then hopefully we’ll get them closed out before the national league starts.”

Speaking in Croke Park at the recent presentation of the rule changes, All-Ireland referee David Coldrick said pressure may well come on the new rules in these early season matches, but added that their status as actual – as opposed to experimental – rules would be significant.

Right way
“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,” said Coldrick.

“In that first month or two maybe . . with teams finishing with 13 players a side or whatever, pressure will come on – that maybe this isn’t the right way for the organisation to go. . . . 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.”

A related new rule sees the number of substitutes allowed increased from five to six; there is the introduction of a new advantage rule (referee may bring back play after up to five seconds); and points may be scored by an open-handed, as well as a fisted, hand pass.

Also from January 1st all GAA players must be equipped with mouth-guards, following the introduction of the compulsory use of mouth-guards for all underage players a year ago.