GAA open to trialling electronic whistle as coronavirus precaution

GAA open to trialling electronic whistle as coronavirus precaution
The GAA’s national referees development chairman Willie Barrett said the concept of an electronic whistle was “certainly something worth looking at”. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

The GAA is open to trialling electronic whistles for referees to smooth the return to action on the field of play.

Fox 40, the market leader in sports whistle manufacturing in the US, is now selling an electronic whistle which is operated with a button - its proponents claim it is safer than the traditional whistle because with no blowing of a traditional whistle there is no risk of droplet infection.

The GAA’s national referees development chairman Willie Barrett said the concept of an electronic whistle was “certainly something worth looking at”.

Barrett added: “There are going to be changes to all our lives because of what we are experiencing, and this is something that could come into our line of thinking when it comes to officiating.

There are questions I’d have in terms of time-keeping and so on, and the obvious point to make is that we haven’t seen it in action in a competitive game, but I’d be interested in seeing if there’s something there for us, certainly.

“It’s something we have to be conscious of going forward - that this virus has us all thinking about what we should be doing and what exactly is the right way to operate in all aspects of our lives, including our sports lives.

“I don’t know if we’ll ever go back to the way we were before the virus.” 

 The company in question, Fox 40, is believed to sell about 15,000 whistles a day, most of them pea-less whistles, but recently the company also began making an electronic whistle that operates at the push of a button.

A switch on the whistle changes the volume, which can range from 96 to 120 decibels, and the tone can be directed by the referee in three different directions.

Fox 40 supplies whistles to the NBA and the NFL - and the White House - and most Gaelic games referees use their whistles already.

“That’s something, most of us use Fox 40 whistles anyway so we’re familiar with their products,” said Barrett.

“They’d be seen as the best around - I remember being sent one years ago and found it very good, very strong. It goes without saying that in any field sport, the whistle needs to be audible all over the playing area.

If you’re going to explore this there are a few questions you’d have to tease out - how would it go in bad weather, would you need to have a spare battery with you in case the one in the whistle ran out, all of those.

“Those are all things that you’d have to look into, but it’s something worth exploring. When you blow an ordinary whistle you’re obviously putting power into it and we all know what can come out, and that’s something we’re all a lot more aware of now since the virus broke out.

“A lot of things are different now anyway - playing the All-Ireland senior finals six days apart just before Christmas is something we wouldn’t have thought of this time last year.

“If it makes our games safer, then that’s important - that’s the key to everything we’re doing, so I think it’s something that’s worth exploring.”

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