Eugene McGee has called for the appointment of full-time referees in Gaelic football to improve the standard of officiating in the game.
The former Football Review Committee chairman wants to see the GAA pay a dozen referees who would take charge of championship games as well as educate part-time match officials around the country.
McGee, who spearheaded the introduction of the black card to curb cynical play in the game, maintains it is working, pointing to the high scores as one of the effects the third coloured card has had on Gaelic football.
In the wake of strong criticism from the likes of Irish Examiner columnist Oisín McConville, Tomás Ó Sé and Dick Clerkin about the black card, he accepts there have been some contentious penalties handed out by referees but believes the criticism of it in recent times is largely down to it being the latest significant rule change.
As a means of improving consistency in its application but in decision-making across the board, McGee wants to see the GAA hand the top referees in the country full-time positions.
Echoing a sentiment first expressed by former Kerry footballer Paul Galvin seven years ago, McGee said: “Personally, I favour the GAA having 12 full-time referees.
“It could almost be insisted, then, that all referees referee games the same way.
“If that were done at county level, it would set a standard around the country.
“As well as that, those referees could take a sabbatical from their work, do it for three, four or five years, get properly paid for it and in the time between matches coach other referees around the country.
“There is no point in talking and saying ‘why don’t we do this and that’. Let’s do something now. It would be a good investment preaching the same dogma of consistency.”
McGee sees no difference between the inconsistencies in administering the black card as those in other aspects of officiating games.
“It comes down to how referees interpret them, the same way they adjudge if a ball has been picked off the ground, a penalty should be awarded. It’s no different.
“It’s handy for people to hone in on the black card because it’s the newest rule. “There was a strong core of anti-black card people before it was announced.
“One of the first phone calls I received after it was announced was from one of the northern managers.
“They vary from referee to referee. We have got so used to how different referees act from match to match and then it’s emphasised by the black card because it’s modern and it’s the latest rule. The high scoring that’s going on all over the country is evidence of the efficiency of the black card.
“The people that were being pulled down aren’t being pulled down as much anymore. It has cut down on cynical fouling and I think most people would agree with that.
“What does amaze me, though, is the number of intelligent footballers, who have psychological training and everything attached to them now, who still pull down players. Most of the black cards are justified. The managers might have to wonder why their players are still getting black cards.
“Say the rule is rubbish all you want but what about these managers who are doing nothing in coaching to prevent black cards happening?
“The second Tyrone black card looked wrong to me but a lot of people wouldn’t agree with the decision against Mattie Donnelly, one of the best players in the country.
“You could see how shattered he was to be put off. That was understandable. It was the referee’s decision. David Coldrick is supposed to be the best referee in the country so what can you do?”
McGee feels there is more potential for controversy in picking up a black card than being shown a red because it is more dependent on the interpretation of the referee. “The black card is more negotiable. The red card, very few people argue with it because it’s usually blatantly obvious. There’s more room for negotiation with the black card and that’s why referees come into it. Maybe somebody at the end of the year will analyse 20 or 25 videos of black card incidents and see where is consistency and where there is not and what can be done about it.”
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