Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 1 November 2014

New GAA rules can pass vital vote

Paul Earley will present the proposals to Congress tomorrow
Paul Earley will present the proposals to Congress tomorrow

Eugene McGee, Chairman of the Football Review Committee, (FRC), has stated that enough votes can be won at Annual Congress this weekend in Derry to pass the proposals that will radically change Gaelic football.

Among the proposals are the introduction of a black card to counter the current trend of cynical fouling, the introduction of the Australian Rules-style 'Mark', and other measures such as an independent time-keeping method.

The most controversial of all is the black card proposal, but according to McGee (right), anyone who has watched high-profile televised games during the National League were provided with the argument for its introduction.

"The matches televised in the National League so far have certainly helped the cause," McGee said.

"For those who wish to see the good and the bad, they have ample evidence on the television. Nearly every match was on the television, both Setanta and TG4.

"It was there for all to see the sort of things we would like to change; this thing of pulling and dragging men down and that sort of stuff."

The issue has been a matter of heated debate, and while some managers have voiced their absolute opposition to the rule change, others are believed to be broadly in favour.

While it has been suggested that these rule changes have been forced from on-high, the results of their findings came from the basis of 3,190 replies to an online survey, 500 e-mails received and collated by a third party, and 300 letters sent to McGee from people concerned with the spectacle and direction of Gaelic football.

As a columnist with the Irish Independent himself, McGee is satisfied with the level of debate it has so far generated, both within the media and at county board level.

"The media reaction has been – as usual – mixed, but it has been more in favour than against," he said.

"Counties that were against it didn't seem to ask for us or any of our members. But the vast majority of counties asked to speak to us. I was in several counties and they (members of the FRC) have all been in different counties. They are all very happy and all they wanted was for one of our members to go along to a meeting and tell the rank-and-file people, to run through exactly what it was, so that there would be no uncertainty."

He continued, "I don't think anyone can say that the propositions weren't debated, that they aren't fair and reasonable."

They will be presented to Saturday's Congress by former Roscommon footballer and current International Rules manager, Paul Earley.

"The people who were against it, obviously they can make their own case at Congress and they have to make the case against it and we will see what they have to say about it," commented McGee.

With Fermanagh, Tyrone, Down, Antrim, Armagh, Limerick, Clare and Cork already decided that they will vote against the black card – as well as others expected to join them – the chances of it getting through could be said to be slim, but McGee believes other votes from outside county delegates could prove to be decisive in obtaining the crucial two-thirds margin required to affect rule change in the GAA.

"Quite a few counties haven't said what they are doing yet and there are a lot of miscellaneous people, a lot of votes from abroad and members of Central Council and members of the Management Committee," pointed out McGee. "There's a whole load of those votes, I think Central Council has over 40 members at the moment.

"There will be a lot of talking and chatting in between now and lunchtime on Saturday. There is a lot can happen on either side. It will be tight, no doubt about that, but we will see what happens. It's GAA democracy, 66% is needed for a pass and everybody accepts that."

If the proposals are not passed, McGee agrees that it could be a long time before another attempt is made to alter the rules.

"People would be very reluctant because this is the second, if not the third time in the last 10 years that roughly similar things have been put before Congress, this is the most clearly defined one, the less abrasive one.

"This isn't earth-shattering stuff here. There could have been more draconian rules brought in but these are very modest rules."

And despite the difficulties caused by having to obtain a two-thirds majority, McGee has no problem with it.

"That's the rules in the GAA and we all accept that. It was always going to be tough, the Cardinals who went to the Sistine Chapel, they had four or five votes before they got what they wanted," he finished.

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