Statistics show black card has improved Gaelic football

Páraic Duffy defends punishment saying it has increased scoring and reduced fouling

In his report to next month’s annual congress, to be held in Croke Park, GAA director general Páraic Duffy has defended the black card and pointed out that evidence suggests the sanction has improved football.

“There are statistics, too, that underline the positive impact of the black card on the game and that provide a comparison with the pre-black card era. Since its introduction in 2014, the total aggregate scores per game – compared with the previous four years –has risen by 10 per cent, the number of goals per game by 25 per cent and the number of points per game by 7.5 per cent.

“In the same positive vein, the average number of frees awarded per game has fallen by almost 13 per cent. It is frustrating that there has been an inconsistency in the implementation of the rule and also a lack of understanding in some of the commentary of what the rule says (not that clear written explanation of the rule is not readily available to anyone who wishes to comment on it).”

Opposition to TMO

The card, introduced during the 2014 season, provides for players culpable of calculated fouling to be ordered off the field with a team replacement allowed. The fouls covered by the rule are deliberately to: pull down an opponent; trip an opponent with hand(s), arm, leg or foot; collide with an opponent after he has played the ball away or for the purpose of taking him out of the movement of play and to remonstrate in an aggressive manner with a match official.


Duffy also laid out his opposition to the introduction of in-match video review as in rugby’s TMO. Saying that it disrupted the flow of the games and put pressure on referees to consult it for fear of being criticised for not doing so, he adduced evidence from rugby to support his case.

"It was interesting to read the recent comments of top rugby referee Nigel Owens, who wants to see fewer decisions referred to the TMO. He expressed the view that rugby should go back to where it was five or six years ago, where it was used only on the goal line. He believes that overuse of the TMO is eroding the authority of the referee and that the focus should be on improving the decision-making of match officials.

“We need to remind ourselves that when we play sport, it will be played and officiated by human beings whose inescapable condition it is to occasionally make mistakes. That is what we sign up for, and it shouldn’t be beyond us to accept that, now and again, we will be the victims of human error. Ours are not professional sports. The challenge for us is to improve the standard of officiating of referees and umpires so that mistakes will be minimised and to encourage a spirit of sportsmanship that will allow us to accept that from time to time mistakes will be made.”

North America

He also expressed strong support for a motion from North America, which proposes to prevent inter-county players going to the US during the summer while their county is still involved in the championship or qualifiers.

“The actions of a handful of clubs with wealthy benefactors who pay these players to play shows a contempt for the GAA and its values. The growth of our games in the USA in recent years has been driven by hard work and good coaching programmes for juvenile players.

"Investment in these programmes will do far more to secure the future of our games in the New York and the USGAA areas than paying a small group of elite players to play a handful of games. There will be those who will argue that the presence of these players is a boost to supporters abroad, but, if this is so, it is at the expense of their clubs in Ireland, American-born players and of our rules on amateur status."

Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times