Ulster GAA Secretary Calls For Change To Gaelic Football Four Steps Rule

Ulster GAA Secretary Calls For Change To Gaelic Football Four Steps Rule

Ulster GAA secretary Brian McAvoy has called for the Standing Committee on Playing Rules to consider making a change to the four steps rule in Gaelic football.

McAvoy believes that the rule can't be enforced by referees and that a time-based rule should be introduced instead. He adds that the current rule should continue to apply in hurling.

In his report to the Ulster GAA convention, which takes place next week, McAvoy writes:

"The GAA Rulebook permits a player in possession of the ball to “carry it in the hand for a maximum of four consecutive steps or held in the hand for no longer than the time needed to take four steps.” This rule applies to both Gaelic football and Hurling. The Canadian County Committee brought forward a motion to the February 2020 Congress seeking to amend the rule by replacing “four steps” with “two seconds.” The motion was heavily defeated, receiving the support of just 9 per cent of voters.

"The heavy defeat was undoubtedly due to a number of factors. Firstly, and significantly, it was never likely that such a fundamental rule change would be countenanced without it first being the subject of a trial and, secondly, the motion submitted by Canada applied to both Gaelic football and Hurling.

"The rule has been in place for many years and in relation to hurling it largely continues to fulfill its purpose. The same, however, cannot be said for football. It was introduced in an era when ‘catch and kick’ was the norm and for a player to take even four steps was something of a rarity. But the game has evolved – it has changed from a game of ‘catch and kick’ to a possession game and the rule has failed to keep pace with the evolution of the game.


"In the modern era a player can have taken four steps before you have time to blink and if a referee in Gaelic Football attempted to implement the rule there would be chaos. They therefore, understandably, choose to ignore it. Rarely is a player in possession of the ball penalised for ‘over-carrying’ (other than when he is surrounded by opposition players) and the vast majority of players take at least seven or eight steps between ‘toe-taps’ when they are moving unimpeded.

"On many occasions it’s many more as we witnessed in a recent All-Ireland final. Where a rule can’t be enforced it shouldn’t be there. Some players move so fast that it would be almost impossible for a referee to count steps in real time, especially when he has so many other matters of which to be mindful. A ‘time-based’ approach rather than a ‘steps-based’ approach is obviously the approach. I therefore believe that the GAA’s Standing Committee on Playing Rules should consider the issue of steps in Gaelic football with a view to bringing forward a proposal for experimentation in 2022 or 2023."

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brian mcavoy ulster gaa four steps

PJ Browne
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