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GAA: The Black Card – Problems And Solutions

Here we go again, more controversy surrounding the black card in football. It could arguably be renamed ‘the grey card’ taking the number of grey areas that surround it into account. Here we take a closer look at the problem and offer some solutions to footballs troubled child.

It is like the hurling penalty all over again. Anthony Nash forced a change in the way penalties were taken in hurling, and Sean Cavanagh’s tackle on Conor McManus has been the cause of a rule change in football.

The black card was introduced as a knee jerk reaction to a controversial foul and a Joe Brolly rant. It received a lot of opposition around the time of its introduction but it was still passed. The obvious thing that needed to be addressed was the intentional fouling but the charges that be decided to add more fouls that were to be punished with a black card.

Overall, it would have to be strongly questioned if the black card has been a success or not. Here we identify the three obvious problems and also prescribe three potential solutions to what is becoming a continuous problem in football.


1. Implementation

The implementation of the black card has been the biggest problem. There have been major inconsistencies in the issuing of black cards and what offences have warranted black cards right from the off. By the letter of the law, Robbie Kiely was correctly given a black card yesterday, but the question will be asked, would all referees have handed out a black card on that occasion? There are way too many inconsistencies.

Munster GAA Senior Football Championship Semi-Final, Fitzgerald Stadium, Killarney, Co. Kerry 12/6/2016 Kerry vs Clare Paudge Collins of Clare is shown a black card Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Lorraine O'Sullivan

2. Sanction

In this point we simply ask; does the punishment fit the crime? Did Robbie Kiely deserve to be put off the field for yesterday’s tackle? No he didn’t, it was a foul and a cynical one at that, but there is no way that one single offence like that should result in any player being sent from the field. The black card does not supply a sufficient punishment on too many occasions meaning it is not serving its purpose.

GAA Football All Ireland Senior Championship Semi-Final Replay, Croke Park, Dublin 5/9/2015.Mayo vs Dublin.Mayo's Seamus O'Shea is shown a black card.Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Lorraine O'Sullivan

3. Confusion 

How many times has a player stood next to referee and everyone in the crowd, on the pitch or watching on tv have thought; what colour card will he get? Seamus O’Shea in last years All-Ireland semi-final replay was a great example of this. Everyone wondered would it be yellow or red; then a black card was issued. Brendan Murphy learning of a suspension on a Thursday night before a Saturday game after acquiring two black cards added more confusion.

Overall, there is too much confusion surrounding the black card on so many levels. In this day an age it simply is not good enough.


1. Abolish

Do the GAA just get rid of the black card? It has not been a general success and has caused more problems than solutions. It has not really served its purpose. It has caused a lot of hassle for all people, including referees. Would the GAA be better in just getting rid of the black card and going back to the yellow and red cards that were without a lot of fault.

2. Sin Bin

This was trialed and scrapped a few years ago before it was ever given a chance. But take Robbie Kiely yesterday, it was a cyncial foul that should be punished and discouraged. Would ten minutes off the field have been a better punishment? Would ten minutes down to 14 men without Sean Cavanagh have been a sufficient sanction back in 2013? There is a lot to be said for it, or at least trying the sin bin. It works well in other sports.

Robbie Kiely receives a black card 21/8/2016

3. Black Card For Preventing A Scoring Chance

If the black card is to remain, the number of offences needed to be lessened. A lot of the offences should not lead to a player being sent from the field. They can be replaced but teams will nearly always be weakened by losing a player on their starting fifteen. If the black card was there to send players off for preventing a clear goal scoring chance, then it may serve a purpose.


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Author: The PA Team

This article was written by a member of The PA Team.