The stark imbalance of the GAA's disciplinary system has been highlighted by director general Paraic Duffy in his annual report to next month's Congress.
Duffy believes the current system of time bans has to be replaced with a fairer and more equitable system based on missing matches instead.
In a detailed account of inter-county suspensions served in 2009, the injustice is exposed by the number of matches missed in comparable cases of time suspensions served by players.
The most glaring imbalance was registered for the 16 players who received eight-week suspensions. Four of those missed no game whatsoever, four more missed one game, one missed two games, another missed three, while five missed four games. One player was forced to miss a total of five games.
“There is an obvious and clear imbalance in any system where one player serves no suspension for the same offence that another player can miss five games for,” writes Duffy of the disparity.
In a separate study of those players who picked up four-week bans, less glaring but still hugely inconsistent penalties were served. Out of the 68 four-week bans served, 16 did not miss a game because there was no “next game” in the competition.
Under the category that merits a four-week ban, if the time ban elapses before the next game in the competition, the player in question must still miss that next game. There were 27 players who missed one game and nine who missed two games. Two players who got four weeks were hit hardest by having to sit out three games.
Duffy acknowledges that because of multiple eligibility (club, county, college and code) enforcing a system of match bans would be difficult.
Duffy makes his comments as a motion on the very same issue makes its way to the floor of Congress.
Longford club Grattan Og have proposed their own system for adoption in 2011 whereby current time suspensions would convert into matches.
Under their system, a current two-week suspension, applied to a player who picks up a second red card for double yellow cards, would equate to a two-match ban. A four-week (Category Two) suspension would become a three-match suspension, eight weeks would become four matches and 16 weeks (Cat 3.2) would become an eight-match penalty.
In Duffy's words, match suspensions represent a “fairer” way because of the way inter-county games are scheduled.
“The situation is particularly noticeable at inter-county level where the irregular nature of fixture scheduling means that at times there are frequently four or five-week gaps between championship games and in a scenario where the four-week suspension is the most common in our games, it leads to a situation where many players effectively do not miss a single game,” he writes.
Duffy also believes the current championship format in football is still the best available to the GAA until someone comes up with a better model. He is in favour of retaining the provincial championships and the qualifiers, two aspects of the structures that have been exposed to more debate over the last 12 months.
Duffy has also revealed that a presentation on the gravity of pitch invasions will be made to Congress.
He again highlighted the serious nature of the inevitable “crush” that follows major finals in Croke Park.