Gaelic Football experimental rule change proposals to be trialled in coming weeks
By John Harrington
The GAA’S Standing Committee on the Playing Rules (SCPR) yesterday issued a list of proposed experimental rule changes for Gaelic Football.
A detailed explanation of the five proposed rule changes can be read here.
GAA.ie today spoke to the SCPR’s Chairman, David Hassan, about the thinking behind the proposed rule changes and the consultation and trialling process that will now take place over the coming weeks.
Q: What was the over-arching philosophy behind these proposed rule changes from the GAA’S Standing Committee on the Playing Rules?
A: The committee has an obligation to bring forward for the attention of the Association the rule amendments and adaptations that it feels would be beneficial for the games, both football and hurling.
It has that obligation so that's why on this occasion we've issued these proposals for consultation and we've set aside the month of October for that.
There are five proposals there, one relating to the sin-bin. The other four do have common principals.
That is to try to incentivise the kicking of the ball and the catching of the ball and generally movement of the ball from a player's possession. That's where the hand-pass is coming from, that is where the mark is coming from.
And also even something like the kick-out. I think what the kick-out will do, identifying that middle section of the pitch, is to create room for the players who want to catch the ball above the head in the traditional format and also for goalkeepers, as they have been doing for the past couple of seasons, to use the wings in a way that is more creative for the team to launch attacks.
There are common principals and we're trying to promote the core skills of the game and incentivise teams to use them.
Q: What sort of consultation and trialling process will take place in the coming weeks with these proposed rule changes?
A: Over the course of the whole month of October we're going to be carrying out probably the most comprehensive survey in living memory of people's attitudes towards the rules, and, by extension, the game of Gaelic Football.
What we're doing is we're surveying every senior inter-county manager and where there isn't an appointment we're sending the survey to the county secretary.
Through the offices of the GPA we're surveying a very large number of senior inter-county footballers to ascertain their views.
And we're also speaking to referees. I should also say, because the focus might be seen to be on the inter-county scene, we'll also be establishing focus groups in all four provinces to relay the views of club members even though those rules are only going to be trialled at inter-county level.
Q: What teams will road-test the proposed rule changes in the coming weeks?
A: Univeristies, mostly in Dublin, but we're also looking at opportunities outside Dublin, have been very good at facilitating matches throughout the month of October.
We'll be establishing tournament style football that will see a number of games being played under this format.
We're anticipating somewhere between 10 and 15 games being played. That will allow us to actually see these rules in action and see what patterns of play develop both consciously and non-consciously.
We think that that sort of number will allow us to get a good sense of how they're being implemented by, not just players, but also referees.
Q: There was quite a lot of doubt about the introduction of the mark rule in 2017 but most would now agree it has been a positive addition. Would you be encouraging people to suspend judgement on these proposals until they see how well or otherwise they work in a live game environment?
A: Absolutely. Inevitably some people don't want to see any change in the game. Some people don't want to see this type of change.
But then there's a considerable body of opinion that says, almost without exception, that these are the proposals that people have been speaking about for some considerable time.
So what we're saying now is that we've refined the proposals and worded them in a way that we think can be implemented both at inter-county and club level and now we want to hear what people have got to say about them.
At this point of the process in October we're really just exercising a wide-spread survey, we're gathering in people's views. We'll consider those views and we'll look at the proposals on an individual one by one basis, and its at that point that the final refinement will take place and we'll put them through to Coiste Bainistí.
It is really about the committee exercising a conduit role between a popular view and the decision making body.
Q: Will all these proposals be trialled in the Allianz Football League next year in their current form or will the trial matches this month have a bearing on that?
A: Certainly from the committee's point of view that's the basis on which we put the proposals forward. But if in this consulation period during October there was absolute widespread opposition to any one of these and that became clear by the final meeting of the committee in November then clearly we have a duty to advise Coiste Bainistí of that opposition.
But it would be our view that we've considered a large body of research underpinning these proposals and we wouldn't really be putting them in the public domain if we didn't think they were worthy of experimentation in the League.
Q: What's your reponse to people who will say these proposals are a reaction to Dublin's current dominance of the senior inter-county game and are designed to dilute some specific strengths of this Dublin team?
A: The reality is that Dublin's or any other county's style of play was not considered by the committee. Now, we watched a lot of footage, obviously, in trying to establish patterns of play and so on and so forth.
There was certainly never an intention to consider any particular individual style of play demonstrated by any team.
The consideration was always the aggregate, or helicopter type view of where the game was at in general terms. So there was never an intention to consider any individual team, and certainly not Dublin.
Q: What was the thinking behind the Sin Bin proposal?
A: There certainly has been a view held at large that the principal underpinning the black-card or indeed the two yellow-cards was sound. It was just what the outcome of that process was.
So there was two sides to that coin. Firstly, that if a player recieved a black-card then quite a number of teams had an equally good player to come back onto the field of play so there was no obvious, immediate on the day type penalty.
So we wanted to look at that and what it meant in reality. We know on average that the figures would indicate about one black card is issued per game. I think suggestion the sin-bin might lead to a whole series of players being on sideline is exaggerated as well.
I think the reality is, based on the use of the black card at least, that we might see on average about one sin-binning a match. I think people would agree that's no major imposition on how the game is played.
Q: Are you looking forward to seeing how these rule proposals work in a live game scenario?
A: Oh, yeah. The consultation will be really valuable and our deliberations and proposals are valuable as well, but the ultimate test will be what it will look like when 15 players play 15 players.
How does that impact on the pattern of the game? Etcetera, etcetera. So, yeah, we're looking forward to the experimentation, and when we have the results of that experimenation alongside the consultation we'll have the final body of evidence that will allow us to make the recommendation to Coiste Bainistí with confidence.