Don’t differentiate between one wrong and another

A guess would be hazarded that this corner is far from alone in having a collection of old VHS tapes. Encompassing football, hurling and rugby matches, race meetings, you name it. But there are also copious comedy collections therein.

Today, one of them was catapulted to the forefront of thoughts in this seat. Namely, Vinny Jones’ Great Balls Of Fire. As anybody who remembers the firebrand Welshman playing will attest, the video could’ve been based solely on the man himself.

But instead, the amalgam contains clips from soccer, rugby, American Football, ice hockey, you name it. Any sport where there’s physicality and therefore the possibility of a fracas erupting.

Contained in the recording were clips from some of the South American countries. Thence, on a few occasions, players can be seen squaring up to referees, only for the match official to lay down their whistle and, well, give as good as they got!

One is not for a moment suggesting the players should be engaging in such nefarious activity. Or indeed that the whistlers give in to the temptation to react accordingly.

The point was merely being made to illustrate the reality that such idiotic and harmful incidents are far from the GAA’s by exclusivity. That said, it doesn’t reduce the onus on the Association to deal with such instances – or worse – in an expedient and appropriate manner.

In my view, the first pre-requisite of any such measures should be to have a uniform policy for dealing with such instances. However, recent evidence would suggest that procedures are regionalised, disjointed and, frankly, not fit for purpose.

Already this year we have seen incidents in Wicklow, Kerry, Wexford, Roscommon and Mayo. In some cases, details were sketchy of what transpired in the aftermath of the scandlous events. At best.

In others, to my knowledge, there has been no announcement of what sanctions were imposed upon the guilty. Some of whom, thanks to the ever presence of cameras of some description, have about as much of a leg to stand on as I have.

However, what is in my view even worse is that, to their immense credit, the Mayo Co Board took swift and decisive action following a recent reprehensible incident in the county, only to see each of their proposed sanctions all but quashed on what appeared to be no more than a whim.

GAA President Larry McCarthy

Now, I would not, in any way, like to see a person’s right to a hearing and/or appeal completely abolished. But, it is a fact that the GAA’s appeals system is too elongated and unwieldy. Plus, it has now taken on the veneer of a situation piting one sector of the Association against another.

For instance, how must Mayo GAA, and people on certain committees therein, to see their work basically thrown in the bin. How must the referee feel? Or the player who was wronged in this situatio? Or his family and club?

Matters such as the above need to be handled very delicately. One would hope after reflection, the perpetrator would – of their own volition – step away. Again, this will most likely go against the grain, but, I wouldn’t be in favour of lifetime bans.

That would put a sporting organisation on a plinth higher than all but the worst criminals doing time. Hardly an avenue they want to be going down. Ultimately, though, the only thing that really matters is that the player at the centre of the latest black cloud to engulf the organisation.

In this corner, hope would be that they will obtain the help and support they need to continue their membership of and participation in the GAA. The recent spate of such unruly incidents does, mind you, put an onus on the Brains Trust within to take substantial and meaningful action.

Meath whistler David Coldrick

How that very matter is handled, though, is of crucial importance. While I can totally understand the view expressed by David Coldrick – the best Gaelic football referee in the country – that teams, as well as individuals, need to be in the picture when dealing with these instances.

The jury in this seat remains on the fence regarding how that would be meted out though. Part of me thinks that punishing an entire team for the nefarious action of one is, in this day and age, probably excessive.

That is solely meant in the context of, for example, a team having to complete a match a player light owing to the idiocy of one. By all means, eject the guilty party from the game and suspend them for as many games as is deemed fit. But allow there to be a replacement on the day. Which would, obviously, then impact on the number of substitutions a team could make.

It wouldn’t be the first stipulation adopted from basketball, and it would certainly be worth trying. Something which, in a roundabout way, Uachtarain CLG, Larry McCarthy recently referenced.

The bespeckled boss cited the use of Technical Fouls in the fast-paced, five-a-side fair. Most commonly seen when players or, in particularly, coaches, get lippy with officialdom.

Philadelphia 76ers Coach Doc Rivers is never short of a word for referees

Right, so with the GAA still clinging to a debiltating veneer of amateurism, fining transgressors personally isn’t an option, but the rest of how the NBA deal with Technicals could work in our games.

Namely, where in basketball a team gets three Free Throws and uncontested possession thereafter if their opponents are hit with a T. Why, for example, couldn’t it be slightly altered to fit a need.

For example, if a player or mentor is pinged for descent – or worse – why not award a 14 yard free – or penalty, whichever – and uncontested possesion to their opponents? It would quickly persuade folks to zip it.

Whatever happens, the GAA at the highest level have to be seen to be doing something. Of even greater importance, though, is that there is uniformity in how these things are handled.

Don’t differentiate between one wrong and the next. In both Roscommon and Wexford, we have seen 96 week bans dished out. Rightly so given the infractions involved.

However, it’s difficult not to feel that such efforts are at the very least hampered by what transpired in Mayo most recently. As one late, great Irish comedian once pleaded to a slow reacting audience, “All together or not all, please, we’ll be here all night”. Except in this case, the latter isn’t an option.

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