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Irish Independent
Irish Independent
Colm Keys Twitter Email

Sin-bin scoring rate reveals true cost of black-card fouls

Referee David Coldrick issues a black card to Monaghan’s Rory Beggan in the Allianz NFL in March. Photo: Sportsfile

It seems like a lifetime ago now, but in the five rounds of the Allianz Football League that were played from January until March, a number of rule changes approved at a Special Congress in Cork the previous October were rooted down permanently.

The need for those rule changes has divided opinion, but in the case of two of the three, the objective and reasoning set out for introducing them has largely been reached - if the latest evidence presented by performance analyst Rob Carroll is anything to go by.

Carroll has been collating data on aspects of the game for the past two years on behalf of the Standing Committee on Playing Rules and has delivered objectively for others to interpret.

The introduction of a 10-minute sin bin to replace the original dismissal of a player who had committed one of five particular offences, with the proviso that he could be replaced, has arguably had the biggest impact.

That original concept, introduced by the then Football Development Committee in 2013, had focused on punishing the individual player by removing him for the rest of the game. By being able to replace him, the team generally didn't suffer as much as the player.

But the sin bin has introduced a clear team punishment with Carroll revealing that, in a sample of 30 games analysed over the five rounds earlier this year, a team that was numerically disadvantaged for those 10 minutes was likely to concede twice as many scores as their opponents.

That's a ratio of 2:1, down on the 2.9:1 recorded over the 30 games analysed during the 2019 league when a number of rules were being trialled.

But still, it's food for thought for players, or more precisely teams, who see value in dragging down, tripping or body colliding with an opponent deliberately, in addition to the two other remonstration and behaviour offences categorised.

"It's about two to one, which is a decent advantage in that kind of time-frame and was one of the goals the committee set out to achieve," said Carroll of the sample.

"It's not an exact science, some of them cross half-time and some are different lengths, but broadly speaking there is an advantage," he added.

Surprisingly, ball-in-play time has not dropped sharply during those 10 minutes, as feared by many observers who saw an opportunity for time-wasting through delay and feigning injury.

According to Carroll, ball-in-play time has remained broadly the same, a little over five minutes, during a 10-minute sin bin.

"Five to five-and-a-half minutes is the normal time for a run of the mill match, somewhere just above 50 per cent, but you are not seeing a massive difference when a team has 14. There could be 'keep ball' but not the big delays, injuries or kick-out stoppages," Carroll said of his latest findings.

"It would be much more interesting to see in knockout football, when there is something really big at stake. But it's not like you are seeing drops to three and four minutes."

Moving kick-outs to the 20-metre line from the 13-metre line has impacted on the ratio of short to long kick-outs too with over 60 per cent, according to Carroll, now going long (over the 45-metre line) and 46 per cent being 'contested.'

The aim of the committee was to increase the number of contested kick-outs and by moving forward the point of contact by seven metres, the landing area has been squeezed sufficiently to record a modest improvement.

The percentage of long kick-outs fell dramatically in the last decade, from 86 per cent long in 2011 to 56 per cent in 2016. Since the introduction of the kick-out mark that figure has levelled off, but the latest change has brought back up the number of long kick-outs to in excess of 60 per cent.

"It's not just a case of going longer. You are seeing more contested kick-outs which you would expect to go hand in hand. It's not a case that they are just dribbling over the 45 and teams are just picking them up, it does look like we are seeing a bit more than a contest," said Carroll.

The most contentious rule change, the advance mark, appears to have had minimal impact in the five rounds played, though the concept may be better suited to Championship conditions.

The average score from an advance mark during the five rounds was just under one point per game. Only about 60 per cent of marks during the sample games resulted in a shot, leading to the conclusion that it is not yet being 'abused' by teams.

"You have your arguments for and against it, but we're not seeing massive scores from them," added Carroll.

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