Three things GAA and Soccer might like to adopt


Do it now. FIFA clearly is a basket case of an organisation but at least the GAA are talking to Hawkeye on the possibility of introducing a system to clear up when a point is actually over the bar rather than past the post. It’s not clear however if their intention is only to sort out these issues, rather than square ball debates – the latest of which arose yesterday in Croke Park. The irony in Meath being the victims of what looked like a bad call was rich, and probably greeted with loud cheers in every parish in Louth, but that doesn’t make it acceptable. Games are won and lost on calls which are too tricky to make with the human eye in real time.

So use the technology which is available, and see how it has benefited rugby. Yes, it will mean that some decisions are referred upstairs when it’s hardly necessary, but these tend to come back pretty quickly and no harm is done. The consequences on the other hand of getting it wrong are huge.

Rugby evidently isn’t perfect, and needs to introduce a system where a team captain has one opportunity in each half – or per game – to ask the match ref to refer something to the video ref. This would have saved us the storm which raged in Cardiff in the Six Nations when Wales were awarded an illegal try. The reason that storm was so wild however was because there are so few cock ups of this magnitude in the game. Technology has played a part in keeping them to a minimum.


Why do both soccer and GAA stop for injuries that are not serious? Rugby had to change track on this because of the amount of Hollywood stuff going on to stop the game and break the momentum of the other team. Now it works well – the game continues as a player is treated. And if it becomes clear the injury is serious then play stops. The result is that the ball is in play longer and the amount of cheating is reduced.


FIFA’s list of shame is lengthy but its refusal to protect referees is up near the top. It is now institutional: ref makes a controversial call (unaided of course by technology) and runs away immediately, pursued by a gaggle of wealthy athletes screaming abuse at him. Kids watch this human coursing and start questioning every decision in their own games. GAA’s version is not as vile but the scope for improvement is significant.

Rugby by comparison is a tea party, which is ironic given the levels of adrenaline flowing through any game. There was a hint of unrest two seasons ago with signs of increased backchat, but immediately refs cracked down on it. Rugby went through a huge change in encouraging all the players to talk to each other all the time – back in the day it was the captain’s voice only that could be heard – because defence became so important, and you can’t defend if you don’t communicate.

This is what led to the upsurge in refs’ decisions being questioned, but even so it was mild compared to the other codes. And it was sorted quickly. The good refs allow a two way system to operate without it getting out of hand. It works.



About Brendan Fanning

Brendan Fanning has been involved in rugby all of his life as a player, coach and journalist. He has been rugby correspondent on the Sunday Independent since 1996, and has been reporting on the game since the mid 1980s when he stopped playing with Clontarf. In 2007 his book From There to Here, a definitive account of Ireland’s transition from amateur to professional rugby, was published to critical acclaim.
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One Response to Three things GAA and Soccer might like to adopt

  1. I’d have to say that there is more than a hint of unrest when it comes to refs in rugby. It’s been creeping up slowly as professionalism pushes the boundaries of what is acceptable further and further – trash talking, head tapping, showboating, etc. Rugby is much better at looking after our refs and respecting them, but how can we share this with other sports without sounding smug or condescending?

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