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Over the bar for two points? Football Review Committee unveil list of proposals to make Gaelic Football world’s best game to play and watch


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CHANGE is on the way. From the throw-in to the final whistle and almost everything in between, the Football Review Committee (FRC) is tabling a range of tweaks and enhancements to the game of Gaelic Football.

Like a Sheriff dispatched to clean up an unruly Wild West town, Jim Gavin and his FRC deputies have come up with a series of measures – some radical, many timely, all thought-provoking – aimed at bringing law and order to Gaelic Football.

The committee, which has members from every province includes vastly-experienced players, managers and officials such as Michael Murphy, Seamus Kenny. Malachy O’Rourke, James Horan, Eamonn Fitzmaurice and Shane Flanagan, forensically examined the pace and flow of matches and looked to strike a balance in their recommendations between tradition and the introduction of new innovations in scoring, kickouts, pitch layout, positional restrictions and other facets which are all designed, the committee say, to increase the overall entertainment value for players and spectators.

Six-time All-Ireland-winning Dublin manager Gavin’s committee was given the demanding brief of making Gaelic Football “the most enjoyable amateur game in the world to play and watch”.

That is the North Star they have been guided by throughout a painstaking, root-and-branch process that has included many, many hours of study and discussion within the group and many more with a broad range of stakeholders including club and county players, referees, county board officials and supporters.

Meetings with overseas unit and focus groups in all four provinces will continue this month and the new rules will go through a trial period in a series of games involving many county players whose counties have exited the Tailteann Cup or Sam Maguire series.

These are known as ‘Sandbox games’ (sandboxing is a technical term for a testing environment) and they are intended to identify what works, what doesn’t work and the “unintended consequences” that may emerge from introducing rules that are designed to encourage pace and flow while rewarding attacking, positive play. The ‘Sandbox Games’ will be played behind closed doors in Mullingar, Claremorris, Portlaoise, Armagh and Limerick.

GAA supporters have had their input. So far there have been over 5,500 surveys returned by the public (coaches and players are the most active responders) and the window remains open until June 30.

When asked what they enjoyed most about the game, the traditional skills of catching, kicking, taking long range scores, players taking on their opponent 1-v-1 and pressing opposition kickouts remained the most popular aspects.

Possession-based tactics and swarm-tackling came well down the list.

As for what the paying public dislike, cynical fouling, overly-defensive play (an excess of a team’s players in one half of the pitch), tactical fouling and disrespect for referees topped the list.

The FRC wants feedback and suggestions from as many interested parties as possible before they finalise their report.

“If you want your voice to be heard then get it in,” said Gavin, who intends to have the report completed in October in advance of the Ard Chomhairle (GAA top brass) meeting.

After that the next stage is Special Congress on December 7 and the rule enhancements will be introduced for the National League and the Championship for the start of the 2025 season.

The FRC will assess the introductions as the season goes on and at the end of the season they will collate the data, come up with a final report which will be presented to Central Council and then it will be taken to Congress where, if passed, the measures will officially go into the GAA Rule Book for the 2026 season and beyond.

So far the range of measures have been met with a positive response, according to the FRC, but opponents to the change(s) will have their say when the recommendations go to Central Council. Even if they pass that they can be shot down at the Special Congress.

Highlights of the FRC review so far
Highlights of the FRC review so far

From the first whistle…

THE FRC propose to change the throw-in from two players from each team contesting the ball to a 1-v-1 scenario.

This suggestion emanates from the chaos often seen at the start of games when one player from either side gets involved in a pushing and shoving confrontation and makes no effort to catch the ball. The FRC has noticed from studying footage that the current trend only crept into the game over the last couple of years and is now commonplace.

Referees have been reluctant to clamp down on the fouling and the FRC feel a 1-v-1 scenario would sort it out.

Graphic shows the proposed new 40m arc for Gaelic Football.
Graphic shows the proposed new 40m arc for Gaelic Football.


THERE are measures on the table which are designed to encourage teams to push up on an opposition kickout and also to speed up game.

These are:

Allowing kick-outs can be taken before all players cross the 20m line.

Allowing all kick-outs are taken from the small rectangle.

All kickouts from the 20m line must go beyond the new 40m Arc.

Four players in their own half at all times

GAELIC Football is increasingly a possession-based game with both sides slavishly keeping hold of the ball until the right player, in the right area gets his hands on it and takes a shot. The slow build-up to the game means that all 30 players are regularly in the same half of the field and the FRC propose new rules to stretch the game thereby creating more space for forward players and encouraging off-the-cuff action.

The proposed rule is that both teams must keep at least three players (any three) plus the goalkeeper inside their own 65m line

The new rule will prohibits mass defences and increases the amount of space available for forwards which should mean that the ball is kicked more regularly. The penalty for a team breaking the rule will be a free to the opposition from the 20m line.

The FRC reported that referees saw difficulty with this rule at club level but they are confident the rule would soon become “part of the culture of the game” and the free-kick deterrent would stamp out infractions.

Technically, the goalkeeper is still free to roam out the field in that scenario but his team would then need a fourth outfield player to go replace him inside the 65m line.

The public responses to a survey conducted by the FRC
The public responses to a survey conducted by the FRC

The advanced mark

IT’S not a popular rule among fans even though statistically there are 2.8 attacking marks per game. The FRC propose an enhancement to the current law to encourage the player who takes the mark to play on and thus cut out stoppages in the game.

So when ball is kicked in from outside 45m line and caught by player inside 20m line, that player will automatically get a mark but he can opt to play on and have a go at scoring a goal. The change is that if no advantage accrues he will still get a mark.

If the player is closed down by the defence and isn’t going to get a goal or a point-scoring opportunity the advantage is gone. The FRC don’t want the team to play the ball backwards – it’s all about scores – so the game will stop and a mark will be taken.

Emerging themes from the FRC survey
Emerging themes from the FRC survey

Two points for a point, four for a goal…

EVERY GAA pitch will have to be lined out with a new ‘40 metre Arc’ in both halves which will begin at the 20m line (20 metres in from the touchline) and curve out to it’s apex just short of the 45m line and aligned with the midpoint of the goal line (see graphic).

The idea behind this new zone is to encourage long-range shooting, stretch defences and force defenders to push out beyond what is currently seen as ‘the scoring zone’. Having a shot from outside the 40m Arc (including 45s) will earn the attacker two points. All sideline kicks may also be worth two points while a shot over the bar from inside the 40m Arc is worth one point.

Meanwhile, a goal will be worth four points. Awarding five points for goal was also discussed but rejected because it was felt that, should a team score two early goals, they would then be inclined to sit back and defend their lead for the rest of the game.

Kicking and catching skills remain the most popular aspects of Gaelic Football
Kicking and catching skills remain the most popular aspects of Gaelic Football

The tackle

THE tackle is a grey area and we have often heard managers lament the fact that there is no properly-defined tackle in Gaelic Football.

There was speculation that Aussie Rules tackling could be introduced but the FRC have stopped well short of that. However, they do propose that a tackler will be permitted to get ‘hands on’ with a ball carrier and make “one initial contact with the open hand(s) to delay the ball carriers’ momentum”.

Meanwhile, to address the issue of tactical or delaying fouls – whereby a defender has committed a foul to slow down the opposing team – a solo-and-go (tap and go) quick free will be introduced to allow the attacking team to continue their momentum.

Emerging themes from the FRC survey
Emerging themes from the FRC survey

Cynical/black card fouls

A NEW (fifth) black card infraction could be on the way. The rule will come into effect when a player deliberately delays an opponent in possession of the ball by holding the player up but not grounding the player.

Meanwhile, there is a proposal for an amendment to the rule relating to ‘Contributing to a melee’ (another grey area) whereby a black card will be shown to players for such an infraction.

Another amendment for a black card infraction being explored is at underage whereby a player is placed in a sin bin and replaced for 10 minutes for dissent.

The FRC programme for the next eight weeks
The FRC programme for the next eight weeks

Will it all work?

THEY might work alright in Croke Park but on a rainy, murky night in a junior game at some Gaelic Football outpost some of the new rules may be difficult to enforce – certainly early on. Making sure that at least four-players remain in their half at all times could prove problematic and if a local favourite is denied a two-point winner in the closing stages because one foot is adjudged to be inside the ‘40 metre Arc’ there could be trouble.

There will certainly be a bedding-in period for the new rules and that is to be expected.

“There was a lot of drama, a lot of angst about it – as we saw with the black card coming in – but now there’s no cynical play, or certainly not as much,” said FRC chief Gavin.

He accepts that there will be “short-term pain” but is confident there will be “huge long-term gain” to more than compensate for it.

How will referees cope?

HARD-pressed whistlers will have even more on their plates with monitoring the number of players in each half, keeping tabs on the proposed new scoring zone and the new laws which could be coming their way in addition to the black card rule, changes to the tackle, the mark, the advantage rule and much more.

Debate will rage for a season or two as some of the new rules either sink or swim but the FRC wants to put measures in place to help referees enforce them and keep a lid on dissent. The days of the loud-mouthed/foul-mouthed mentor criticising every decision the official makes could be over if a new law on dissent is passed.

The referee will have the power to book the offender and instead of moving the ball forward as they do now, he/she can award the opposing team a scoreable free-kick.

Meanwhile, time-keeping could be taken out of the referees’ hands with the introduction of the stop clock which is used already in LGFA. This would eliminate the controversy which cropped up in the Ulster semi-final between Donegal and Armagh. Four minutes of injury-time were allocated but three of them had already elapsed by the time the board went up to communicate it to the players and spectators. Donegal had the ball at the time and were aggrieved that they ran out of time before they worked the ball into a shooting position.

A stop clock has been mooted previously.

“We’re saying just get on with it,” said Gavin.

Another addition would be the use of vanishing foam (similar to that used in soccer) to mark the spot for all free-kicks inside the 65m line.

Full text of the Football Review Committees emerging themes from public survey is below:

Starting play

• 1v1 for all throw-ins (including the start of each half)

• Allow kick outs to be taken before all players >20m line

• All kick outs are taken from the small rectangle.

• All kickouts from the 20m line must go beyond the 40m arc


• The Goalkeeper can only receive the ball: (a) inside the large rectangle, and the player passing

must be within the large rectangle; and (b) beyond his 45/65m line.

• Both teams must keep 3 players inside 65m line (plus the goalkeeper).

• Advanced Mark: (a) Allowed when a player catches the ball cleanly on or inside the 20m line from a kick in play delivered by an attacking player on or before the opposing teams 45m line;

And (b) The player may avail of the mark by raising an arm upright, or play on immediately until no advantage is accrued, where a free kick will be taken for the position of the original mark.


• Two points scored when the ball is played over the cross bar between the posts outside a 40m arc – the radius centred on the midpoint of the goal line, and arc’s back to the 20m line.

• One point awarded for a point inside the 40m arc or inside the 20m line

• A goal is equivalent to 4 points

Tactical/delaying fouls

• 30m/50m free advancement for ‘tactical fouling’ which “purposefully delays or impedes play”

• Introduce ‘Solo & Go’ rule (i.e. quick free)

• A referee may allow an advantage up to 4m for a ‘Solo & Go’/ quick free to be taken.

• 30/50m advancement if player is impeded within 13m while taking a ‘Solo & Go’/quick free.

Cynical/black card fouls

• Add new (5th) Black Card rule: “To deliberately delay an opponent in possession of the ball by holding the player up but not grounding the player”

• Amend the rule related for ‘Contributing to a melee’ to employ a Black Card for such an infraction.

• Amend Black Card infraction at underage whereby a player is placed in a sin bin and replaced for 10 minutes for dissent (move to recommendation)

Accidental Fouls

• Insert definition of what an ‘Accidental Foul’ is.


• Amend 6.4 Penalty: The free kick shall be taken 13m, 30m/50m more advantageous…..

10. General Fouls

• Any 13m sanction should attached 30m/50m sanction.

11. Advantage Rule

• Amend Rule 5.40: “The Referee shall signal that advantage by raising an arm upright and shall allow the advantage to run by maintaining that arm in the upright position for up to five seconds after the foul or for less time until such time it becomes clear that no advantage has accrued”

12. Game officiating/administration

• Introduce a Stop Clock

• Substitutions increased from 5 to 6

• Line Umpires take one half of the pitch only

• Amendment to Rule 3.1 (v): “The Line Umpires shall bring to the attention of the referee, during a break in play, any instance of foul play… which have not been noticed by the Referee.” “They may also, if requested by the Referee, assist in determining the validity of a score

• Introduce a vanishing white foam to mark the spot for all free kicks are taken inside the 65m line.

• Amend Rule 4.9 re Technical Foul “For an attacking player to enter opponents’ small rectangle for both during play and In Set Play.

Rules that need to be enforced

• Enforce for Throw ins: Aggressive fouls between players contesting the throw[1]in. (Rule 5 – Category 1 infractions); 13m rule for throw in’s (Rule 2.2 (vi))

• Enforce the max. 4 consecutive step rule (Rule 1.4)

• Enforce Rule 6 – Dissent

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