Digital Teamsheets & Referee Reports
Digital teamsheets and referee reports will form part of the GAA’s information technology transformation in 2020.
An overhaul of the Association’s games management system is aimed at streamlining several processes including the registering of players, communication between coaches and players or the parents of juvenile players while complying with General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and child protection legislation.
Currently, the core platform for managing the GAA incorporates three strands — membership/registration, fixtures/results and MIS (management information system), which is applicable for coaching development.
Fully aware of the increasing demands placed on volunteers, the GAA want to ease the burden on club and county officers and encourage individual members to be more responsible in their interactions with their organisation via an app.
The GAA’s chief information officer Tomás Meehan, an All-Ireland senior club winner with Caltra in 2004, explains.
“Technology has moved on, things change and what have had up to now needs to be modernised. The primary users of the system are volunteers and we do try to make their lives easier. That’s one of the key principles underpinning what we’re doing: saving volunteers time. So we’re rebuilding that system to make it more user-friendly, mobile responsive.
“Most of that work currently is done at a desktop when you sit down on spreadsheets and what not, but we’re looking to change that to mobile via apps and being able to do things when you have a few spare minutes as opposed to dedicating a Friday night to do it.”
The fixtures/results system is the first to be reconstructed.
While currently fit for purpose, allowing a referee to agree via a message to take charge of a game and input the result afterwards, it has to become more sophisticated, says Meehan.
“It’s going to be a much more intuitive, integrated system and it’s going to include a couple of new concepts, which will be very important for the GAA.
“The first concept will be the digital teamsheet. There are obviously rule implications here that need to be looked at by the rules advisory committee and then Congress but we want to give coaches the ability to select their teams on their phone, digitally sign it and push it through to the referee.
“All they need to do then from a rules compliance element is have it signed by the club secretary, issue a duplicate and have the names in Irish. The referee will get the other team and there will be an exchange as needs be. Those team sheets will form part of a digital referee report.”
The data collected from such an innovation will be highly valuable to the GAA.
“The big win here is we will be able to get real participation stats about how many games players have played or when those games were played or the demographics of club teams,” highlights Meehan.
“When I was in college I lived with Seán Óg Ó hAilpín and at one stage he was playing Sigerson and Fitzgibbon, U21 football and hurling for Cork, senior football and hurling for Cork and the same for Na Piarsaigh. That was anecdotal evidence. Up to now, we haven’t had a view of how many players have been impacted.
“We know about the Kieran Molloys and the other high-profile players but we don’t have a wider view. It might be some young lad playing junior hurling for a secondary school and then having to play U16 football for his club on the same day. The digital teamsheet will enable us to find out.”
In terms of registering and renewing membership, the paperwork involved and the headaches for club registrars will become a thing of the past.
“A huge part of the overhead for registering players lies with the registrar. There are currently GAA apps where you can register yourself and receive messages from your club and make your payments and so on but we want every member to move towards using a GAA app to registering themselves.
“If you’re a parent you’ll be asked if you give consent for photographs of your child to be used or medical information like your son has asthma. The coach will then know if he or she’s out of breath that he has to get his inhaler.
For coaches, the new system will be hugely beneficial, according to Meehan. “If I’m a coach in Cork the games manager in the county sets out the plan and says, ‘You’re going to need schools on these days and clubs on these.’ The process of recording that after the fact isn’t as efficient as it could be.
“It means sometime in the week I have to sit down and type in all the information.
“We’re changing to be app and mobile-based so if a coach is walking out the gates of a school he or she need only key in the information and he’s done. That gives us real-time information. It’s a bit in arrears at the moment and perhaps I’m a bit more critical of ourselves than I should be but it’s going to make that process for coaches much easier.
“We’ll have better stats and the ability to analyse the effectiveness of coaches and whether or not we’re getting the return for our investment. It’s making that process easier.
The new games management system will also be available to the Ladies Gaelic Football Association and the Camogie Association as well as being compatible with the One Club policy.
“The system will be available for both the LGFA and Camogie and they’re very happy about that because it’ll allow them to synchronise fixtures,” adds Meehan.
“Cork often try to align fixtures so that they can organise double-headers but that can only happen with visibility and right now that can only happen with visibility and at the moment they’re phoning up each other.”
Report: Irish Examiner