Some suspensions are hardly worthy of the name

Forget for a moment whether the Kilcoo guys are guilty or not and simply consider the punishments meted out to those deemed as offenders in the Aaron Cunningham case. Is six months and four months really appropriate to teach a hard lesson to those with racial abuse tendencies, enough of a deterrent to make loudmouths think again before opening their big gubs? No, I don’t believe so, either!

And it’s all because of the stubbornness of the hierarchy of the GAA in sticking by their antiquated disciplinary system. It’s shameful and it’s clearly the black sheep of the entire association, one which is long overdue an overhaul which brings it into line with every successful governing body in the global sports arena.

Whilst they lap up the plaudits right left and centre for having been so forward-thinking in promoting their games and marketing them so well in pursuit of the millions of pounds which has brought them into the 21st century as an amateur sporting beacon of light, they have resisted all attempts to change their punishment format – not that there have been many bids to force through the necessary updates.

Now they are bringing in black cards to add to the ticks, yellows and reds. And that’s tantamount to a surgeon in a hospital emergency department asking a patient with blood pouring from a gaping wound to stick a plaster on it and take a couple of pain-killers and get in touch with his GP if that doesn’t do the trick.

Yet, two simple alterations to the present system would go a hell of a long way to making life so much better – by dealing properly with offenders and instilling the faith of the public in the disciplinary procedure. That belief is well short of what it should be, not least because they don’t even know it’s in operation!

I’ve visited this topic before and regret that I must do so again, but I fear I must do so time and time again, until the dinosaurs in Croke Park come into the real world and make the punishments fit the crime.

Not only is the time suspension ridiculous and unfair, since a one-month ban at one time of the year can have horrendous consequences for one player, while a potentially hefty six month suspension during another period can mean very little to another player. Making players sit out a specific number of games will not be absolutely fair for one and all, but it would go a long way towards being close to that.

And, not only is that an essential change that should have come about decades ago, but so also is the ‘name and shame’ element of a punishment. Indeed, experience from court appearances proved a long time ago that the publicity element of such a setback is very often more embarrassing and punitive than the sentence meted out by the magistrates!

In addition to that mighty deterrent, the publishing of the identities of offenders provides an opportunity for supporters, players and officials of all clubs to know who’s serving a ban and thus ensure they don’t line out, whether by accident or design.

As it sits right now, guilty parties are being protected by the lack of openness, again whether by accident or design, since it would be easier to find out the result of a match between your local branch of Knights of Columbanus and the Masonic Lodge.

Apart from the pathetic common excuse that ‘we deal with clubs and not through the press, there’s a suggestion that they don’t want to name culprits because they fear a libel case should they get off on appeal. But that would be circumvented by listing all their punishments with the addendum ‘pending a possible appeal’.

I’ve mentioned on numerous occasions that the Irish League email suspension lists every Monday to all the local media as a matter of course. For those who don’t appreciate precisely how simple and straightforward this procedure is, I’m publishing a couple of old lists alongside. It does what it says on the tin and everybody knows exactly where they stand.

And, best of all as far as I’m concerned, the powers-that-be in local soccer are seen to be acting efficiently in dealing with those who breaks the rules.