'Not good enough' – Panel discuss GAA TV rights deal

Updated / Sunday, 4 Aug 2019 22:54
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Inter-county games should be free-to-air in order to preserve the GAA's community-based, amateur ethos, according to Tomás Ó Sé.

The Sunday Game panellist was discussing the topic after the Super 8s encounter between Donegal and Mayo in Castlebar, one of the 14 exclusively broadcast on Sky Sports this season. The broadcaster has a total of 20 live inter-county games over the course of the summer.

Sky Sports entered the market in 2014 after TV3's six-year involvement came to an end. Their deal was extended for five years in 2017. The GAA stated at the time that one of the reasons behind the move was to grow the game in the UK market. 

Sky's exclusive coverage of the Donegal-Meath Super 8 game in Ballybofey had an average audience of 1,000 in the UK, peaking at 2,000, and the numbers have been similarly low all season.

Earlier this week Declan Bonner told reporters he would have preferred that the game was free-to-air -  "I’ve been visiting people in nursing homes and hospitals over the last couple of weeks and they don’t have it on Sky. They’d like to see the game, but they don’t have the option" – and Ó Sé was of the same opinion on The Sunday Game.

It's nothing against Sky or RTE, but a game like that should be seen by everybody. It’s simple as

"I don't have Sky. I went to watch it in a bar last night. The GAA is a community based, amateur sport. It’s all about club and community . There is an awful amount of people that can’t afford it. Even bars can’t afford it.

"It’s nothing against Sky or RTÉ, but a game like that should be seen by everybody. It’s simple as.

"We are not like other sports. They should not be selling rights to huge games like this that people love to see."

Sky's viewing figures have been a source of much discussion, but they have also spearheaded a number of initiatives such as Super Games Centres, other grassroot projects and the sponsorship of the annual coaching conference.

Monaghan forward Conor McManus says the "global" vision put forward has been to the detriment of those in Ireland.

"The idea of Sky was to bring it to a wider audience in foreign countries," he told viewers. "I don’t think that should be at the expense of people at home in Ireland, regular club people that want to see the games and don’t get the chance."

"That game was probably the pick of the ties in the championship so far in Castlebar, and people didn’t have the chance to view it."

Dublin backed a motion three years ago at Congress to make all televised inter-county championship games free-to-air, but this only found favour with just over 15% among the delegates

Speaking after Dublin’s defeat of Tyrone in Healy Park, Joe Brolly reiterated his view that the current deal is grossly unfair to the majority of people in the country.

"Thank God for every GAA person that the All-Ireland semi-finals are free-to-air. It doesn’t matter to me whether it is RTÉ or not, as long as it is free-to-air.

It is not good enough

"So many of our people in hospitals, nursing homes, and in rural areas. The 90% of people who can’t afford Sky Sports, are cut off from watching the games.

"It is not good enough."