Sir Alec Issigonis, the talented Greek engineer and creator of design classic the Mini Cooper, once said in a Vogue magazine interview that ‘a camel is a horse designed by committee.'
There is a deep-lying suspicion of committees, but nowhere is the faceless bureaucratic member more reviled than in the GAA. Why can't they leave things alone? Cry the great unwashed.
But debate is good. Discussion is a necessity and any sporting organisation — especially one that stages six different games and a cultural movement — must survive on robust exchanges. Much like the shark that needs to move forward to take air into its gills, the GAA requires perpetual progress.
It was in that spirit that we reflect on the findings and the proposals of the Football Review Committee and the journey that its leader, Eugene McGee, has taken during the past year of meetings, consultations and hours spent poring over statistical analysis, feedback and DVDs of games from the last 12 years.
As a journalist, back in June of this year he blamed Wexford's loss to Longford on the ‘orgy of handpassing,' likewise Kerry's defeat to Cork a month before. A decade ago, he blamed Kildare's qualifier defeat to Kerry on the same thing. You get the picture?
On Monday however, he acknowledged that handpassing is just a skill of the game that may be overused by some teams, but that essentially it is not the greatest evil facing the game today. A look at the teams left in the All-Ireland club series confirms that the club scene has outgrown the over-reliance on handpassing.
What strikes us as odd, however, was that, to quote the report; ‘75 per cent of respondents rated the game at inter-county level as Good or Very Good, the corresponding figure for club football was a much lower per cent.’ Could it be, that some people prefer to watch games dominated by handpassing?
This report, while not flawless, has been encouraging with some of the bigger problems finally confronted. The idea of a managers' charter, to ensure that the tail is finished wagging the dog when it comes to club fixtures, is both a brave and overdue move.
Some county managers will baulk at the idea of gaining a coaching qualification, and McGee's assertion that: “There is no inter-county manager that I am aware of and very few club managers that actually have coaching certificates,” is astonishing. The only sense of wonder is why it has taken so long to propose something that is rooted in good practice.
All the measures designed to make the lot of a referee easier are welcomed, especially the idea of a pre-match introduction in the dressing rooms. A pity though that his job will be made considerably harder by having to determine if a foul was accidental or deliberate — it leaves them open to even more derision, as such a choice is so subjective.
There are faults in this report which we must acknowledge. The fetish for high-catching is ludicrous and rewarding it with a dead-ball kick echoes the distant sound of dead horses being flogged. The example of Donegal's Neil Gallagher catching half a dozen kickouts against Cork above Aidan Walsh — without being dispossessed once when he came to ground — can be added to the performances of Johnny Hanratty and David McKenna in Ulster club football this year as a riposte.
High fielding is not dead, it was just taking a nap.
And by valuing one skill over others, it diminishes the expertise of managers.
Moving the ball on 30 yards after a foul is a good idea, but not a great one. Given that most tactical fouls occur immediately after an attack breaks down, moving the ball on 30 yards will only bring it to midfield, by which time the opposition will have structured their defence and the depressing spectacle can begin again.
Discipline has not been dealt with sufficiently, but that is a column for another day.
However, we should not finish on a downer, because there is much of this that is commendable. Often the best solutions are the simplest, and this goes for the proposal that a public time clock be introduced.
Congress might even adopt the ‘buzzer' from ladies' football — now wouldn't that be something?