Former inter-county referee Martin Higgins feels that the experimental new football rules will place more pressure on referees, especially on those officiating at club level if they are to be eventually passed.

The rules, that include the restricted use of the hand-pass, the sideline kick, the introduction of the ‘sin bin’ and the advanced mark were all sanctioned at an Ard Chomhairle meeting of the GAA in Croke Park last weekend and will be used in the 2019 McKenna Cup and National League.

“I think it is putting more pressure on referees,” he said. “Gaelic referees in general cover a pitch that is significantly bigger than a soccer pitch and you are expected to be everywhere and it has nearly got too technical. A referee already has a lot to keep an eye on and this just adds to that with all the additional things that they will have to deal with.”

Higgins’ bigger concern though is for the club referee if the rules are eventually passed.

“It is one thing bringing these changes in and looking at the inter-county game but an inter-county game has a referee, four umpires, linesmen and a fourth official.

“When a referee goes to a club league game they are usually on their own and it is already a tough enough job without having to count hand-passes, adjudge whether a ball has been kicked 20 metres in the case of an advanced mark or even keep tabs on the time players are in the sin bin.

“I know that they are just experimenting with these changes but if it comes in at club level it is going to be very difficult.

“Even from the point of view of recruiting referees here in Fermanagh, it will make a difficult situation for us even more difficult,” he added.

Higgins does think that some changes in recent years have helped the game.

“The mark, by and large, has worked well and when changes are brought in there is always things that work well and things that don’t work well. Look, time will tell, there are things that will come out of this experiment that will probably turn out to be good for the game,” he stated.

He does though expect a backlash from managers when the league gets underway, especially surrounding the consistency in the application of the rules.

“You could see a manager who is under pressure after a couple of rounds of the National League blaming the changes for costing them points. I think you will see lot of column inches during the league about consistency, or lack of consistency, in application of rules as the manager sees them, not necessarily about the rules themselves,” he commented.