Referees ready to implement new playing rules

By John Harrington

GAA National Match Officials Manager, Donal Smyth, says inter-county referees have been well-briefed on the new rules they’ll be implementing when the Allianz Hurling and Football Leagues begin this weekend and next weekend respectively.

Annual Congress 2021 saw some significant rule changes, particularly those relating to preventing a goal-scoring opportunity with a cynical foul, when advantage should be played, and temporarily replacing a player who has suffered a head injury.

“We had a meeting last week in relation to the new rules and we sent out a number of clips for them to try to define what's a goal scoring opportunity and try to get all the referees on the same wavelength in relation to that,” Smyth told

“And now we have our final meeting with the hurling referees on this on Thursday night and then the football referees to follow on Thursday just before the games start.

“So what we're trying to do is to ensure we're all consistent in our message and how we implement the rules and how we take the game forward from there.”

In hurling, a team will now be awarded a penalty if one of their players has a goal-scoring opportunity and is pulled down, tripped, or struck carelessly with a hurley while he’s inside the opposition 20-metre line or semi-circular arc.

The player who commits the foul will be yellow-carded and sin-binned for 10 minutes.

The passing of Motion 20 at Annual Congress 2021 has introduced new penalties for aggressive and cynical fouls in hurling and football.
The passing of Motion 20 at Annual Congress 2021 has introduced new penalties for aggressive and cynical fouls in hurling and football.

This rule will take effect this year for the inter-county season, but not until 2022 for the club game.

“In relation to the new rule that penalises a team for denying a goal-scoring opportunity, probably the biggest change is on the hurling side of the house because the sin-bin hasn't been in rule before,” says Smyth.

“On the football side, the black card rules haven't changed but the same rules now apply in relation to the 20 metre line and the semi-circular arc.

“In those circumstance a black card occurs in that area and it'll also result in a penalty and 10 minutes in the sin bin. So there are major changes coming in relation to the cynical fouls in both hurling and football.”

The change to the advantage rule means a referee can only play advantage if he believes the team in possession of the ball have a clear goal-scoring opportunity or another advantage 'by creating or capitalising on time and space.'

“This is a big change for hurling and football as well,” says Smyth.

“They're the only two occasions now the referee can play an advantage. So, again, that's going to be a major change from what we've done before.

“That's what congress has decided and we will see how it goes in the next couple of weeks.”

The new temporary substitution rule for suspected head injuries means if a player sustains a suspected head injury he can be instructed to leave the field by the referee for further assessment.

“It’s very similar to the temporary or blood substitution that we've had before but in this circumstance it's where the referee decides that there has been a heavy collision and the player is after suffering either a head injury or suspected concussion it'll be treated like a temporary substitution,” says Smyth.

“The player will have to go off and he can be medically assessed by the medical team attached to the team concerned.”

You can read and download a guide to all the new playing rules below.