Westmeath GAA chairman Frank Mescall.

Westmeath GAA votes for longer ban for racial abuse

Westmeath GAA has voted in favour of changing the GAA’s rules on racial or sectarian abuse so as to institute a longer suspension for offenders.

The motion, submitted by Westmeath GAA’s management committee, will be brought to GAA Congress next year and if carried, will see “any deed, word or gesture of a racist, sectarian or anti-inclusion/diversity nature on an opponent or match official” become a Category 5 infraction.

The offence is currently under a Category 4 heading, which allows the imposition of a minimum two-game suspension. If re-designated as a Category 5 infraction, offenders will be hit with a 12-week suspension from all codes and at all levels.

Patrick Doherty, Westmeath GAA’s head of operations, said that the management committee discussed the rule and believes that the penalty for such an offence should be more severe.

Frank Mescall, chairman, told delegates at the recent Westmeath convention that the object of the motion is to “make the punishment fit the crime”.

“In this day and age, racial and sectarian abuse has no place in our games,” he said, adding that the current punishment of a two-game ban “does not seem real”.

After a show of hands, delegates voted for the motion by acclamation.

Also adopted was a management committee motion which proposed that county boards be given the option to find other, more convenient ways of deciding placings in competitions other than having a play-off.

Mr Doherty said that the proposal, if carried, would allow the Competitions Control Committee (CCC) to decide who progresses in the event that two placed teams are level on points and score difference. For example, instead of having a largely inconsequential play-off which would further clog the fixture calendar, the CCC would be empowered to toss a coin.

Mr Mescall said that not having the rule that insists on a playoff would “cut out a lot of hardship for the CCC”.

He clarified with delegates that the rule change would apply to placed teams, and not those involved in relegation or promotion shake-ups. The motion was carried.