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Jim Gavin’s committee ready to assess potential changes to football this weekend

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The Football Review Committee (FRC) is about to embark on a series of “sand box” or trial matches to gather evidence on the feasibility of various possible solutions to problems in the game.

The FRC, chaired by former Dublin manager Jim Gavin, includes a spread of well-known football personalities and is still encouraging feedback from the public until the end of June.

There have been 5,576 responses to the online survey already and 4,000 comments have been emailed in a broad consultation ranging from Antrim to Wicklow, also taking in the Middle East, Europe and the USA.

The predominant age groups are 31-45 years (37 per cent) and 46-60 years (33 per cent).

The five sand box (used to mean an isolated environment where things can be securely tested) games will take place across all four provinces on five of the next six weekends, starting this Saturday in Mullingar. Teams will be made up of club players specially empanelled for the purpose.

They will play under rules which reflect the themes that have emerged from the public consultation.

When the data is reviewed, proposals will be drawn up in October for a special congress next December with a view to formal trialling in the 2025 national league.

Based on the feedback, the elements of the game most liked by the public were: kicking, catching, long-range points and evasion skills, one-on-one contests for possession, taking on opponent one-on-one, good support play and general pressing.

The main dislikes were: disrespect for referees, time wasting and cynical fouling.

To address these concerns, the FRC has decided to:

  • identify potential areas for modification or enhancement that could contribute to a more exciting and dynamic viewing experience
  • maintain a balance between tradition and introducing innovations that could increase the overall entertainment value for spectators
  • explore possibilities for adjusting scoring systems or introducing new elements that could encourage more strategic and engaging gameplay

Among the “emerging themes” are the introduction of a two-point score for kicking over the bar from outside a 40-metre arc (the radius centred on the midpoint of the goal line, and arcs back to the 20-metre line). Anywhere inside the arc or the 20 metre line would still be worth one.

A goal will be worth four points in the sand box matches.

Teams will be required to keep three outfield players, plus goalkeeper, within the 65m line. Goalkeepers will continue to be allowed to play out of goal but once past the 65-metre line, must be covered by another player.

The forward or advanced mark will continue but a player will be entitled to play on until no advantage is accrued and then go back for the original mark. Similarly, the advantage rule will be applied as in rugby by playing on until no advantage has accrued and then go back for the original free but there will be no “five seconds” rule.

A player will be allowed take a free after a run-on of four metres rather than being brought back to the original mark to allow for the speeding up of the game.

There was a strong view that dissent and gamesmanship should be punished more severely than the current 13-metre penalty. Referees, in particular, are in favour of pushing out the surcharge to between 30 and 50 metres, which would be a significant penalty, for impeding a quick free.

It was also thought worth regrading the red card offence of “contributing to a melee” to a black card, sin bin infraction because of the reluctance of some referees to apply the full sanction. Also added to the black card category is the “holding up of a player without grounding him”.

Sand box matches will also use a stop clock, as in the women’s game, and experiment with the vanishing foam, familiar in soccer, to prevent stealing steps at a free kick.

Engagement is through a dedicated website, or by simply writing to or e-mailing the committee. Suggestions can be sent by letter to Jim Gavin, FRC Chair, Croke Park, Dublin 3, D03 P6K7 or to frc@gaa.ie.

FRC: Jim Gavin (Dublin; chair), Séamus Kenny (Meath; secretary), Colm Collins (Clare), Patrick Doherty (Westmeath), Éamonn Fitzmaurice (Kerry), Shane Flanagan (Kildare), James Horan (Mayo), Alec McQuillan (Antrim), Michael Meaney (Carlow), Michael Murphy (Donegal), Colm Nally (Louth), Malachy O’Rourke (Fermanagh).

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