FRC report proposes several Gaelic football rule changes

A list of proposals on how to improve Gaelic football have been published in the first part of the GAA Football Review Committee's two-part report into the current state of the game.

The FRC have taken an in-depth look at the game at club and county level, debating the current playing rules, the role of administrators, coaches, manager and referees.

The report is the result of the largest consultation ever undertaken by the GAA on any matter over an eight-month period with up to 4,000 people from 32 counties and abroad consulted in various ways.

Speaking at the launch the FRC Chairman Eugene McGee said: "The overriding conclusion that has emerged from all this research is that Gaelic football is in a fairly healthy state.

"But while the basic structure of the game is in good shape, there are some specific matters that have arisen in recent years which are a source of complaint from many football people.

"These are what the FRC was requested by GAA President Liam Ó Néill to examine and if necessary propose changes for the better."

Some 3,170 people also took part in an FRC online survey about various aspects of the game. Cynical/tactical fouling and deliberate time-wasting were among the top dislikes among survey respondents.

The majority supported some form of sin-bin type of discipline to counter deliberate cynical play by a player and team.

Referee inconsistency and also disrespect for referees were among the top five dislikes, while the top things people like about the game include high catching, kicking skills and long-range scores.

As part of the report, statistical analysis of over 60 matches, half from 2001/2002 and half from 2010/2011, including minor and adult club and county grade across all four provinces, helped the committee ascertain clearly defined patterns in the development of the game in that period.

The FRC has made a number of proposals specifically to help reduce flashpoints and causes of needless frees in games and is suggesting "heavier penalties for deliberate fouling and cynical play".

In the interests of fairness to players, the FRC proposes that a distinction between "accidental" and "deliberate" fouls be written into the rules, with only "deliberate" fouls invoking a card punishment.

Players issued with a yellow card should be subject to mandatory substitution for the remainder of the game. After a team has been given three yellow cards, any further yellow card will mean the player going off with no substitution.

The FRC has proposed that all offences currently attracting a 13-metre sanction should attract "a 30-metre sanction" in order to further reduce the player or team penalised seeking to slow down play for tactical reasons which leads to frustration for the other team and often unsightly bunching, shoving and delaying tactics.

The FRC also suggested that, in addition to the existing rules, if the player who commits a foul has the ball he must place the ball on the ground immediately and retreat the required distance. Failure to do so should attract a 30-metre sanction.

The proposals including an "advantage rule", "the mark" and the option of the "clean pick-up"will make Gaelic football a better spectacle and help to reduce inconsistency in the game.

The use of the public clock will be proposed for Croke Park and other major county grounds for inter-county games.

Some of these proposals within the report passed at the GAA's annual Congress will start in the 2013 season and there are other proposals which, if passed, will become operative in January 2014.

These include the new yellow card system, an amended version of the pick-up, and the introduction of the mark for kick-outs, which reach the 45-metre line.

In addition, as the adult club game has an average of just 32 minutes with ball in play and due to the modern fitness levels of club players, there is a proposal to make the adult club game a 70-minute match rather than the current 60 minutes.

"These are changes which are meant to enhance the quality of Gaelic football and make it more enjoyable for players and spectators," explained McGee.

"They should also make the game more attractive to young players which is very important for the promotion of the game.

"Practically all those proposals had majority support when we consulted the wider football public and we are confident we will all enjoy a better quality of football as a result."

GAA President Liam Ó Néill added: "In many ways the contents of this report confirmed what we already knew - that the game of football is a fantastic spectacle but if minor changes would tidy up some aspects of playing rules to further enhance it, it is incumbent on us to have this debate."

The second report, focusing on Championship structures and related matters, will be published in early 2013.

The first part can be viewed here.

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