GAA plans stringent health and safety guidelines

A SENIOR Croke Park official last night admitted that “health and safety is not taken as seriously in GAA as it should be”.

However, the chairman of the GAA’s national infrastructure and safety committee, Seamus McCloy, claims the Association is quickly coming to grips with the matter and revealed that some county grounds that might normally expect to host championship games will be prevented from doing so if they fail to meet strict guidelines.

While Saturday’s Central Council meeting agreed that the standards laid down by the committee would have to be met from January 1, 2011, McCloy has indicated that they will, in fact, be enforced next year. The committee has carried out an audit of all county grounds in recent months and a number of issues will be tackled.

“There were many problems” McCloy admitted. “You can’t take a sledgehammer to crack a nut so you have to start at the bottom.

“Health and safety is not taken as seriously in GAA as it should be. Having said that, a lot of the problems aren’t major ones. It might be that some steps are crumbling, that they’re not wide enough, that the fire exits aren’t being left clear. We’re also going to have to ensure that counties have a safety officer, an events’ controller and a chief steward. Often, you’ll find, that the one guy has all three titles and he has them in name only.”

McCloy, whose five-year term as Derry chairman concludes Sunday, agrees that the GAA should have been quicker to address these issues but insists that the committee has more power now to punish those who contravene the regulations.

“After the grounds have been got in shape from a safety point of view, we’re going to have to look at what the spectator facilities are like. The days of going onto a grassy bank and covering yourself with a plastic sheet are gone. You must have a covered stand. Is there soup and tea available?”

Press facilities and crowd control measures will also have to be up to scratch while the existence of turnstiles at the gates will be mandatory.

“We’re starting at a poor level” McCloy admitted. “We will be sending out an instruction this week that grounds will not be getting championship matches if they don’t address the problems. Obviously I’m not going to be specific but a lot of grounds would be in trouble right now. A few of those would be grounds that will be expecting a game.

“But if you don’t fix the problems, you won’t be getting a game from us.

“(Grants) are available as part of the overall plan. There won’t be a grant for maintenance, if it’s something like putting a coat of paint on the wall in the toilets, but maybe if you want to put in a covered stand or turnstiles, there will be something available.”

Meanwhile, Saturday’s meeting also confirmed that proposed rule changes in hurling and football will be discussed at Congress next April after a trial period in the national leagues. The specific details of the proposals will be made public during the week but amongst the most significant is the abolition of the square-ball rule in football.

Another change that catches the eye is the proposal to move the penalty in football closer to the goals.

This has become another major issue in recent years, with defending teams happy to concede penalties in the knowledge that the conversion rate is quite low while the AFL-style mark will also be trialled.

No major changes are expected in hurling, although one proposal that will feature in both codes is interesting. If a game is entering its closing seconds with teams level, referees will be instructed not to blow the final whistle if one of the sides is attacking.

In other news, Council approved the GAA’s budget for next season, with a press statement reading that “despite the obvious financial challenges ahead, the association remains in a sound financial position and is committed to doing its utmost to ensure that there are no significant reductions in general allocations to counties.”


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