Umpires now face exam before lining-out in championship

GAA umpires will not be allowed officiate at championship matches this year unless they have passed a new exam.

Director General Páraic Duffy met with whistleblowers and Coiste Bainistí to prepare a training course umpires must undertake before the senior inter-county championship starts.

Following years of controversial decisions, most notably Martin Sludden’s decision (after consulting umpires) to allow Meath’s late winning goal stand against Louth in the Leinster final, the plan is likely to receive widespread support.

The Wee County has sent in a motion for this year’s convention calling on the Central Council, provincial and county committees to have “absolute power” in naming umpires for championship matches.

However that is likely to be shot down in favour of the new certification system.

“At the moment we’re in the process of putting together a syllabus on it so all umpires will have to be certified before this year’s championship games,” said Duffy.

“As things stand referees will be able to use their own umpires provided they have their certification.

“There is a motion going before congress to use umpires from a different county as the referee but as far as we’re concerned we’re happy that the umpire, as long as he is certified, won’t change. The referee can chose what umpires he wants to use.”

A National Research Committee is undertaking a feasibility study on the possible implementation of Hawk-Eye technology but training umpires is the GAA’s priority according to Duffy.

He added: “In the current definition of the umpire’s role it is clearly indicated that an umpire is expected to have knowledge of the playing rules of the game. Yet we do not know if an umpire has such knowledge or not. Moreover, an umpire is not required to demonstrate such knowledge. We have systems in place to govern the training, performance, monitoring and appointment of referees yet, where umpires are concerned, we exercise little control.”

The course will be designed to reduce mistakes and ensure all umpires are aware of their role.

Duffy described the Leinster SFC final as “the low point of our activities in 2010” as supporters attacked Sludden after his decision to allow a Joe Sheridan goal which secured the provincial title for Meath.

“There are some lessons to be learned from this episode. The immediate post-match events represented a serious breakdown of security, one that left the referee open to assault on the pitch while the final moments of the match demonstrated that the protocol governing the manner in which referees and umpires work as a team need to be addressed.

The GAA asked Meath to consider a replay, which they refused, leading to much criticism about the Association’s handling of the affair.

“I reject utterly the criticism that Croke Park failed to offer leadership and direction,” he said.

“In fact, we provided both, but it would appear that, for some people, the default position in times of difficulty is the facile one of blaming Croke Park.”

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