Free-to-air list of sports events to be reviewed

Public submissions likely to raise recent deal for GAA games sold to Sky Sports

England and  Italy  in action on Saturday. World Cup matches are protected under free-to-air legislation. Photograph: EPA/Mast Irham

England and Italy in action on Saturday. World Cup matches are protected under free-to-air legislation. Photograph: EPA/Mast Irham

 

MARK HILLIARD

The Government is to undertake a review of sporting events protected as designated free- to-air programming for public consumption.

The latest round of consultation on “designated events”, which takes place every three years, is likely to attract criticism of the recent controversial deal for 14 GAA matches to be screened exclusively on Sky Sports.

While All-Ireland finals are protected, other less marquee matches are not.

In other fields, the Olympics, Irish European Championship and World Cup football matches in both qualifiers and finals, and the Rugby World Cup are all sheltered under legislation.

The Irish Grand National, Irish Derby and Nations Cup at the Dublin Horse Show also feature on the list.

Rights owners to any events deemed too publicly important to be the reserve of pay-per- view are also entitled to recommend their removal from the protected coterie.

Safeguarding

In order for events to be included, the minister for communications must consider the extent to which they have a “special general resonance for the people of Ireland” and to which they are “generally recognised [as being of] distinct cultural importance”.

In that sense, many major sporting competitions are not included, even though they command significant interest, cases in point being the four golf majors and Champions League football.

There is also the “deferred” category, which sees events like Six Nations rugby being available to broadcasters to record and show at a later stage, although in practice the tournament has been screened on RTÉ as rights holders in recent years.