Monday, July 11, 2016
I expect precisely none of these rules to ever be implemented, as the GAA’s bureaucracy is up there with the Vatican’s, but still. It’s easy to mouth off about what’s wrong. These are my suggestions on how to put things right. Some are amendments to the playing rules, some to the administration of the competitions. Here we go.
Bring in the Australian Rules Tackle
There are two tackles in Gaelic football – slapping the ball from the hands of the ball-carrier, and a shoulder-to-shoulder contact. Pulling a jersey, pushing in the back, striking or attempting to strike an opposing player are all fouls of increasing levels of severity.
However. Modern football, and I suspect historical football, would look like ballroom dancing if the rules against pushing, pulling and – sorry, Father – striking were enforced. Those laws are unenforceable and therefore should be repealed.
An obvious successor is the tackle as defined in Australian Rules. Contact anywhere between the knees the shoulders, the ball-carrier must lawfully release (that is to say, deliver a foot or a handpass) or else it’s a foul and possession is handed over.
Simple, easy to understand and enforceable. No slobbering about someone not being that sort of player or not really meaning it.
Replace the Black Card with a Sin Bin
Nobody knows what a black-card offense is. Admit the whole idea of the black card was a mistake, drop it and move on. Go back to the idea of the ten-minute sin bin a la rugby for persistent and cynical fouling. Besides; we’ll need the bin again later.
End Appeals to the CCCC
The consistent appeals to the CCCC of the most blatant fouls and, worse, the CCCC overturning the original decisions make a joke of the disciplinary process. Let counties take their medicine. Appoint a Discipline Czar or Star Chamber to review fouls to ensure justice but let his or their word be law and get on with it.
The Czar or Star Chamber should also be empowered to review game footage and hand out bans for events not seen by the referee but seen by everyone in Ireland through TV, social media and the rest. Head-in-the-sand attitudes won’t wash in the 21st Century.
Distribute Money Equally Among Counties
Some counties’ ability to fund-raise is stronger than others. This occurs for different reasons, but it’s chiefly to do with accidents of population. Wouldn’t it make sense for all such monies raised to be distributed equally, or at least to make some sort of effort at revenue sharing?
Building a super team is no good if there’s nobody left for the super team to play against. If the avaricious billionaire owners of American Football’s NFL can manage revenue sharing, then surely the amateur sportspeople of the Gaelic Athletic Association should be able to take a stab at it?
Allow Fighting in Limited Circumstances, à la the NHL
The reason is because hockey is a dangerous game, and NHL teams play each other a lot. Bad blood can fester, and things can get out of control. And the idea has evolved that having players drop their gloves and fight it out releases pressure that, if not otherwise released, would result in much more dangerous play that would see body checks to knees and heads that are career- and life-threatening. The NHL sees fighting as the lesser of potential evils.
The evil that faces Gaelic games isn’t to do with noxious rivalries. There are some counties that play dirty against each other, but it’s tolerable.
What isn’t tolerable is the evolution of a particularly dirty type of sledging. It’s surely part of any game to tease your opponent to see if you can put him off his game, but social codes of the past meant that there was a line drawn.
Modern social codes have shattered all societal boundaries, and players have to listen to up to seventy minutes of the most vile abuse, always knowing that the abuser will receive no punishment for it.
It would be nice if sure abuse were reported to the Discipline Czar are mentioned earlier and he could take care of it, but how could that be enforced? All evidence would be hearsay.
Therefore, take a lesson from hockey. If your man says something nasty about your mother, a slap to the chops may cause him to think again. It’s possible the man will slap back, but that’s ok. The GPA always tell us what elite athletes play inter-county now. An exchange of slaps shouldn’t do too much damage until the referee turns up.
Up until now, striking or attempting to strike has been a theoretical sending-off offence in the GAA. In this case, five or ten minutes in the bin for both parties and the game continues on as usual. If nothing else, it should motivate the funny boys to work harder on their material.