Central Council to tackle football rules infullagenda
There appears to be a consensus not all five proposed rules changes should happen at once
This Saturday morning in Croke Park, the GAA’s Central Council gets to grips with a heavyweight football agenda, which covers playing rules for proposed trialling during next year’s national league, a tiered championship as well as a review of the current round-robin quarter-finals format after the first season of a three-year trial.
It is difficult to get a feeling for the prospects of all items up for discussion, but there appears to be a consensus that not all five proposed rules changes should happen at once.
There is furthermore a resentment among some counties that the league is being used for such a purpose, given the spring competition’s increasing importance, especially for counties in lower divisions for whom promotion and divisional success are more realistic targets than championship breakthroughs.
Although it was possible initially to detect a consensus view that football as a spectacle had deteriorated to the point where intervention was urgently needed, the closer the Central Council meeting gets, the more uncertain the outcome becomes.
Primarily the prospects of the restriction on hand-passing in order to encourage more direct and attacking football have become shrouded in doubt, as reluctance to make sweeping changes appears to have set in.
One county indicated that a circular seeking the views of the clubs attracted no interest, whereas another has chosen not to mandate its delegate despite the importance of the issues.
It’s probably easier to look at the proposals which stand a good chance of being accepted: the requirement that the kick-out must travel to the 45-metre line and be taken from the 20-metre line has support, possibly as it’s uncomplicated and has been seen to work well in international rules tests against Australia.
The tweak that the kick be taken from the 20 rather than 13-metre line emerged from a trial match in St Patrick’s College where a gale was blowing and goalkeepers were seen to experience real difficulty in getting kick-outs as far as the 45.
The original accompanying proposal that just two players from either team could be between the 45-metre lines for kick-outs was dropped when it was felt to be too difficult to monitor and amid fears that the game would be slowed down by players, in whatever circumstances suited, taking their time to clear the area.
Another of the proposed trials that looks to have critical mass is the introduction of a sin-bin for 10 minutes as a punishment for committing a black-card infraction. Currently the punishment is that the offending player should be replaced for the remainder of the duration of the match.
The attacking mark is another idea that appeared initially to gather support, but it has been modified to apply within the opposition 45 – rather than the 20-metre line – once the pass is also kicked from within the same line and it must travel 20 metres.
The rationale behind the move, as advanced by Rob O’Carroll-Gaelic Stats, is that “the average number of kick passes per game has fallen by almost 15 per cent (latest available figures from 2017) over the course of just seven seasons (ie 127 foot passes witnessed per senior inter-country game in 2011 versus 110 foot passes played during such games in 2017).
“All other things remaining constant, the number of actual kick passes in inter-county Gaelic football will, based on this predictive trend, fall into double figures in fewer than five seasons (ie by 2023).”
Reservations about the initiative are based on the difficulties posed for referees in trying to judge where the ball is kicked and caught as well as evidence from international rules that players increasingly opt to kick the mark rather than play it on immediately – a tendency that slows down the game.
Other business includes deciding whether a tiered football championship should be introduced.
There is a strong feeling that this is an idea whose time has come – despite having to be pulled from the clár at the 2016 annual congress for lack of support – and it is estimated that the option of allowing counties to re-direct into a graded championship after they have been eliminated in either of the first two rounds of the All-Ireland qualifiers, has the greater chance of success.
The attacking mark is another idea that appeared initially to gather support but it has been modified to apply within the opposition 45 once the pass is also kicked from within the same line and it must travel 20 metres