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Joe Kernan: Time to embrace TV refs

There are very few team sports of which I am aware that are under the control of seven officials.

But major championship matches in gaelic football and hurling come into this bracket – and now a call is being made for even more stringent policing of such matches. And I for one am certainly in favour.

We have reached the rather embarrassing stage where referees are almost afraid to give a decision — or not make a call as the case may be — in case it is subsequently highlighted by the media, notably television, and they are virtually held up to ridicule.

The concept whereby referees are then ‘invited’ to review decisions they may have made in particular matches by a Central Competitions Control Committee with a view to either overturning them altogether or amending them now appears to be at the kernel of every debate on GAA affairs right now.

So why not let’s cut straight to the quick and install the TV monitor in the stand for the major games? At least that will provide the definitive version of what actually takes place.

As I see it, referees are coming under increased pressure. In many instances they are damned because they make a big call — meaning perhaps that they may get fewer major games in future — or are damned because they refuse to grasp a particular nettle.

The installation of a TV monitor might well help to ease the current problems that seven officials appear unable to deal with efficiently.

Let’s be honest, it serves rugby very well. And given that we have already ‘borrowed’ some traits from that game, we should not be reluctant to go with the ‘TV eye’.

We all acknowledge that referees have a tough role to fulfil. It is a thankless job but some more than others have managed to earn a high level of respect from players, officials and fans.

Yet there is obviously a need for closer scrutiny to be exercised in relation to the major matches at least and the best way of achieving this is by a TV monitor in the stand manned by a responsible person.

While most people will feel that such a course of action is purely designed to pinpoint thuggery it will serve another important purpose. Quite frequently players are booked or even sent off because of mistaken identity with perpetrators of transgressions getting off scot-free as a consequence.

That’s something that would surely be remedied by resorting to the television eye and it would also help to provide clarification on whether a ball had crossed the goal line, had gone out for a ‘45’, or offer confirmation when required of any of the many other elements that are part and parcel of a major championship match.

The term ‘trial by TV’ is being bandied about quite freely but it’s only those who pursue a dubious or even sinister agenda who have anything to fear from the presence of a TV eye. Indeed, this is something that should be warmly embraced rather than feared.

Already since the start of the current Championship campaign we have had our share of controversy but this is part and parcel of all major sports. It’s how it is dealt with that reveals the commitment, credibility and character of the governing body of a particular sport.

For all their professionalism, detailed preparations and towering sense of ambition, France and England have been having their travails in the World Cup. The gauntlet has in essence been thrown down to the French Football Federation and the FA — and that same gauntlet is now being lobbed in the direction of the GAA hierarchy.

For the moment we are saddled with the situation whereby referees will continue to be ‘invited’ to review decisions but this cannot last for ever.

Not so long ago when the referee sounded the final whistle that was that. The match was suddenly consigned to the record books, done and dusted.

Now it would appear — in some instances at least, regrettably — that when the referee sounds the final whistle it merely heralds the start of the real drama.

Belfast Telegraph


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