Referees chief Pat McEnaney said provincial councils will be advised to appoint established referees to January’s pre-season games as a means of ensuring a smoother bedding-in process for the black card.
Referees from the Championship rota will be among those training club officials as part of the six-week education system on Gaelic football’s forthcoming rule changes from January 1.
They will visit all 32 counties as well as London as part of the education plan on the rule changes.
Among them is the black card, which will be issued to a player committing one of five cynical infractions and being replaced by a substitute. Should a team have more than three players black carded, they can no longer replace.
GAA president Liam O’Neill yesterday gave his full endorsement to the changes, which also includes the advantage rule: “The modern player expects his skills to be protected.”
And to ensure club referees get an idea of the new rules in action, the best men in black will be appointed to games which are usually officiated by up-and-coming referees.
“I think that is one of the things we will push for, particularly in the O’Byrne Cup, McKenna Cup competitions,” said McEnaney, “because there will be a number of club referees attending those games.
“So that will be an argument that we will definitely be getting out there. Provincial councils appoint them but I will be getting the message out that we want our top referees on those games, people that have been in the Championship, so that we start off on a positive note.”
January could be a turbulent time as referees, managers, players and supporters get acquainted with the permanent rule changes.
McEnaney is not getting too worked up about it, though. “You will always fear that something might go wrong but even if you go back to last year with the square ball rule people questioned if we were going to have a lot of problems with goalkeepers’ being injured and a lot of chaos in around the square. It didn’t materialise.”
He is incredibly optimistic about the implementation of the black card. “One of the things that has stuck out over the past number of years is the cynical foul, the deliberate rugby style tackle as people have referred to it and that’s something we want to take from the game.
“I’m very confident the team of referees we have out there will deliver on this, even at club level. The big thing is the onus is on the player — no player likes getting substituted — to keep himself on the pitch and I’m very confident that we’ll have a success story here.”
All club referees must attend the course or undergo the e-learning module on the official GAA website. Any who fail to do either will not be allowed to take charge of a game next year.
McEnaney said: “It is fair to say a lot of counties are well organised, some counties are not well organised, but there will be a strong message coming from me and my team that we need all referees at this training.”
The Monaghan man joked at yesterday’s press conference that he could spend two days showing recent examples of cynical fouls in Gaelic football.
Interestingly, the new rules will be in operation for the All-Ireland club championships, which will have started under the jurisdiction of the old rulebook before Christmas.
While teams who don’t have a substitute immediately ready to replace a black carded player they might be numerically disadvantaged until the next break in play.
The new advantage rule, which will allow referees to call back the play up to five seconds after a foul if they deem the offended team have gained nothing from, is something McEnaney would like to see introduced to hurling.
For the time being, he believes it will give football club referees the benefit of a delay in making a decision.
“When I came into office, one of the things we talked about at national level, particularly the more experienced referees, was the ‘slow whistle’. That’s what I talk about. I’ve always said it doesn’t make any difference how late you are with the whistle, if you got the decision right who gives a damn?
“So the five-second advantage, to me, is a big plus for our club referees who are not quite as experienced – or quite as good – as our national referees. So here’s a five-second advantage rule where, if they don’t see it, they can go back.”
How the transformation of football will continue
There won’t be a black card as such next year. Instead, referees will brandish their black notebook. But Gaelic football is most definitely changing.
Here are the five areas where it will be transformed:
* Black card — A player deemed to have committed one of five cynical fouls (deliberate pull down of an opponent; deliberate trip with hand, arm, leg or foot; deliberate body collide after the ball has been played; threaten or to use abusive or provocative language or gestures to an opponent or team-mate; remonstrate in aggressive way with a match official) will have to leave the pitch and be replaced. A combination of a yellow and black card is a sending-off offence.
* Substitutes — To facilitate the black card, teams will be allowed a maximum of six subs. A maximum of three black-carded players can be replaced before a substitution is no longer permitted.
* Deliberate v Accidental — Only yellow, black and red cards can be issued for fouls deemed deliberate by the referee.
* Suspensions — Three cumulative black cards, three double yellow cards or a combination of both (three) at inter-county level, in league and championship within the same year merits a one-game suspension. At all other levels, two double yellow cards, two yellows followed by black cards or a combination of both within 48 weeks is a two-week suspension
* Advantage — A referee may allow play continue even when a foul has been committed if he considers it to be to the advantage of the offended team. He raises his arm upright to signal as such. If, up to five seconds later, no advantage has occurred, he can call back the play for the free.
* Open hand point — Like the existing fisted score, it will be permitted from January 1.
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