The GAA has launched a new initiative to tackle sideline abuse of children and referees and to embed a culture of sportsmanship in young players.
Association President Christy Cooney underlined the significance of this grassroots Respect Initiative by describing it as “the most important launch I will ever make during my term of presidency.”
The scheme has been piloted among under-12s in Armagh, Sligo, Waterford, and Kilkenny, and will be extended nationally to all units of the GAA at under-12 level in the coming months.
Over the next few years, it will be extended to under-14s, 16s, minors and adults.
Essentially it's an education and practical programme for parents, coaches, teachers, and players, and is designed to do away with the ‘win at all costs' attitude that can turn young players away from the GAA. At top level, Cooney also announced a pilot Fair Play Index scheme for the National Leagues in Football and Hurling, with a prize of 10,000 euros to the county which has the lowest average of disciplinary points at the end of each campaign.
Inevitably, questions were linked with the Respect Initiative and the Kildare v Laois O'Byrne Cup brawl at Portlaoise on Sunday.
President Cooney commented: “Last year we had a tremendous season with regard to discipline and how our referees performed. Absolutely outstanding.
“We had a little hiccup last Sunday at Portlaoise. I'm not really going to get into that today but it's not the trend that we want this year. I know that Leinster Council will deal with the situation as it should be dealt with under rule.
“I want to send a clear message today: that's not the standard we want in any team at any level, or any teams on the field of play and the Respect Initiative must be carried through at all levels.”
All units of the GAA will receive information packs about the new scheme and club information evenings will also be held.