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David Hassan, Chairman of the Standing Committee on Playing Rules, speaking during an Experimental Football Rule Changes media briefing at Croke Park in Dublin.
David Hassan, Chairman of the Standing Committee on Playing Rules, speaking during an Experimental Football Rule Changes media briefing at Croke Park in Dublin.

Hassan urges optimism for experimental football rules


By John Harrington

David Hassan, Chairman of the Standing Committee for Playing Rules, says he hopes people will keep an open mind on the experimental Gaelic Football rules that are to be trialled in next year’s provincial tournaments and Allianz Football League.

There has been some vocal opposition to the proposed rules, but Hassan has urged all stake-holders not to make their minds up about them until they see how well or otherwise they work in practice.

“People generally are sceptical of change,” said Hassan today. “That's true in any walk of life. People are concerned what change will look like.

“I would encourage people to approach it optimistically and positively and give these experimental rules an opportunity. Let's see how they work in practice.

“At the end of that process, we will know how they have worked in terms of the impact they will have. We will put that data again in the public domain and people can make up their own minds.

“I don't have a problem with people having opinions. That's really to be welcomed. The strength of opinion in some cases I would welcome.

“I would point to the facts and, ultimately, any objective analysis of those facts lead only to one conclusion, in particular in relation to the hand pass, which seems to have received particular coverage, if there is not some form of intervention to reduce that, the danger is it continues to dominate the game.”

A study of 322 Football Championship matches from 2011 to 2018 showed there has been an average increase of over 100 hand-passes per game in that time (251 v 359).

The average number of kick-passes per game has fallen almost 15 per cent since 2011 and if this trend continues it is estimated that there will be below 96 kick-passes per game by 2023.

Statistics from 38 senior inter-county championship matches in 2018 revealed a ratio of 3.4 hand-passes attempted for every football pass.

Hassan hopes the experimental rules will address this trend and encourage kick-passing as a core skill of the game.

“I keep referring back to the evidence, but I think what we're seeing is a slight deviation in a particular direction. And what we want to see is a slight correction of that back,” he said.

“So that the key skills that people are telling us they want to see, the kicking and catching of the ball, that they are not somehow lost to the game.

"I understand the argument which says...and we hear sometimes from coaches and certainly players that they don't mind how they win, but I would say this is a shared journey and that we need to be mindful of both what people were telling us in our consultations and also what the data was telling us.”

The GAA’s Standing Committee on the Playing Rules has proposed a restriction of three consecutive passes of the ball with the fist or open hand by players of the team in possession.
The GAA’s Standing Committee on the Playing Rules has proposed a restriction of three consecutive passes of the ball with the fist or open hand by players of the team in possession.

It has been suggested by some that the experimental rule that will limit the maximum number of consecutive hand-passes to three in any one passing sequence will be too difficult to police for referees.

Having viewed the trial matches that were played in October to assess the viability of the proposed experimental rules and gotten feedback from the referees involved, Hassan doesn’t believe that will be the case.

“We spoke to referees, and in the trial games we spoke to the referees,” he said.

“They have said on the whole that it isn't a big problem for them. There will be particular education training sessions for the referees ahead of the tournaments. We can only go on the basis of what they have told us and they responded positively and don't have a big issue with the intervention.”

Meanwhile, GAA President John Horan said today that he will meet soon with the GPA to discuss any opposition they may have to the trialling of the experimental rules in this year’s Allianz Football League.

“They’ve asked me for a meeting and I’ve agreed to meet them,” said Horan.

“We’ll finalise that. Obviously I’m going to Philadelphia on Thursday (for the PWC GAA-GPA All-Star tour) but I’ve agreed with (GPA Chief Executive) Paul Flynn that the two of us will sit down and have a meeting.

“We’ll have a discussion and see, but, look, Central Council have made a decision, we’re not a kneejerk organisation, where Central Council are going to turn around and make an immediate change to decisions they’ve adopted.

“I think if I sit down with Paul, we’ll come to a resolution on all of this, I think it’ll be sorted. I’m not too worried.”

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