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Four points for a goal, a shot clock and vanishing foam – The new rules Jim Gavin’s football review group are set to trial

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Eight of those meetings have been in person, the other 11 online. On top of that there has been the countless consultations that members of the committee have engaged in, with GAA management, Central Council, provincial councils, referees, the GAA’s Standing Committee on Playing Rules and county board chairs.

There has also been a public survey to collate and analyse, a survey which up to late last week had drawn more than 5,000 responses. The committee are keen to get that over 6,000 before it closes at the end of this month. And a further survey has sourced the view of coaching and games development employees.

A thorough review of part two of the official guide which covers playing rules has also been conducted.

The pace has been relentless, the investment of time and effort has been intense. Whatever comes out of this exercise when the committee finally signs off, most likely at the end of the 2025 season, the process has been thorough.​

Everything has bene looked at through the lens of “providing the best possible games experience for players and spectators,” so that “Gaelic Games will be the most enjoyable amateur games in the world to play and watch.”

Clear terms of reference then.

Now, they’re ready for the laboratory with a series of trials planned at five different venues over the next two months. Except they’re not specifically being referred to as trials.

Language is important. So where others see rule change, Gavin and his committee see rule ‘enhancements.’ And for trials, read ‘emerging themes from the public survey’.

From Mullingar to Claremorris, Portlaoise to Armagh and finally Limerick, a number of ‘sandbox’ games will take place involving inter-county players whose teams have dropped out of the championship.

The ‘sandbox’ concept is taken from software development. It allows for testing to take place essentially without consequence. The games are set up specifically for testing without impacting on a competition.

Between the ‘emerging themes from the public survey,’ the interrogation of the rulebook and the consultations, a substantial number of tests will all get an airing at different times over the next two months.

Everything is being approached with an open mind. From creating a new 40-metre arc, outside of which two points will be awarded for ‘points’ to valuing a goal at four points to smaller changes, like aligning the differing rules that allow players to be in the small rectangle before the ball from general play but not from set play. The microscopic work will be extensive.

The committee will look at keeping three players from both sides inside the 65-metre line at all times. But it can be a different player at different times which puts the onus on the officials to keep a watchful eye without the clear identity of an armband or something like it to distinguish.

There’ll be restriction on where a goalkeeper can take a pass from a team-mate, inside the large rectangle (his team-mate must also be in that area) or beyond the 45- or 65-metre line. Nowhere else.

Kick-out variations will be played around with to examine what promotes expediency to beat a ‘blanket.’ But that could fly in the face of one of the public preferences, catching and one-to-one contests for possession. All up for grabs.

Even the unseemly scrap at throw-in time is being looked at, reducing the number to one v one. A tackle where a player is deliberately held up without being brought to the ground is being upgraded to black-card status.

The Breakdown – GAA Weekend in Review

Not everything the committee will look at throughout the five-game schedule will require rule change, if it is to be applied.

There is a strong feeling in support of a shot clock, twice passed by Congress but ultimately dropped over apparent practical issues. The use of foam by an official to mark where a free, inside 65-metres, is taken from will also be considered.

The committee will look at a better definition of the tackle and consider allowing one initial contact with an open hand as part of the mechanism. As it is players routinely use the hand off as the first point of delay in any confrontation.

The results from the survey were somewhat predictable in where people’s preferences for the game lay.

The vast majority of respondents saw kicking and catching as the technical skills they liked most about Gaelic football. Long-range points, from greater than 30 metres, also featured highly.

The tactical aspects most liked were one-to-one contests to gain possession, taking on opponents in a one v one situation and good support play and general pressing. Needless to say swarm tackling and mass defences were least popular.

Interestingly, 35pc of respondents classed themselves as coaches or managers, a further 26pc have been players with just 24pc supporters.

The biggest age cohort was the 31-45 bracket, at 37pc, with 33pc between 46 and 60.

In 2012, when Eugene McGee’s review committee conducted a similar exercise ahead of their deliberations, supporters were the largest cohort of respondents and those between 25 and 34 delivered most responses.

The consultation doesn’t stop. Over the next few weeks, focus groups will be ongoing in the provinces – and it started last night in Bekan for Connacht stakeholders. British and world bodies will also have their time and space.

Right now, it looks like one of the most dynamic and forensic exercises any GAA committee has ever undertaken.

What the Football Review Committee will consider following public survey

Starting games ⬤ One v one throw-ins with other two midfielders retreating behind their 45-metre lines ⬤ All kick-outs taken from small rectangle ⬤ All kick-outs from 20-metre line must go beyond a new 40-metre arc ⬤ Kick-outs without the requirement of players being outside the 20-metre line

In possession of the ball ⬤ A goalkeeper can only receive the ball in the large rectangle and only if the player playing the ball is also within the large rectangle. ’Keepers can also receive possession from a team-mate beyond their 45-metre or 65-metre line. ⬤ Both teams must keep three players, including the ’keeper, inside their own 65-metre line ⬤ An attacking mark to be taken inside the 20-metre line with the ball kicked from outside the 45-metre line. ⬤ A player can play on from a mark but if no advantage accrues, the original mark will stand

Tackle: New definition with possibility of allowing one initial contact with an open hand

Advantage: Advantage won’t be restricted to five seconds but the free will be called back once it’s clear no advantage is accruing.

Dissent: Free moved forward 30/50-metres for any instance

Scoring ⬤ Two points for a ‘point’ from a new 40-metre arc ⬤ Four points for a goal

Tactical/delaying fouls ⬤30-metre or 50-metre advancement of the ball for tactical or delaying fouling ⬤ Facility to ‘solo and go’ from a free with a 30/50-metre advancement if the player is impeded within 13 metres.

Cynical play/Black cards ⬤ Deliberately holding a player but not grounding him becomes an additional black-card offence ⬤ Contributing to a melee to become a black-card offence (currently red but rarely used) ⬤ 10-minute underage sin bin, with player replaced, for dissent

Aggressive fouls ⬤ Define rough play ⬤ Yellow card for tackle around the head, neck or shoulder

Game officiating and administration ⬤ Greater powers for line umpires, no requirement to have a break in play to call a referee’s attention to an instance of foul play ⬤ Line umpires taking one half of the field only ⬤ Introduce a stop clock ⬤ Introduce vanishing foam to mark position of frees inside 65 metres. ⬤ Align rule about players being inside the small rectangle from play and set play. Currently, from a set play, a player can’t inside before the ball. ⬤ Increase substitutes from five to six.

Enforcement Great enforcement for dissent, four steps, throw in contests

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