GAA deal with Sky Sports to be raised at Galway County Council

All-Ireland manager Senator John O’Mahony asks that Minister for Sport clarify situation

A call for an end to the GAA deal with Sky Sports for broadcast of Gaelic games is to be discussed at next week’s meeting of Galway County Council.

Independent councillor and member of Tuam GAA club Shaun Cunniffe has put down a motion for Monday's meeting objecting to a continuance of the current three-year GAA deal with Sky Sports.

The motion has been seconded by Athenry-Oranmore Independent councillor James Charity.

Cllr Cunniffe is spokesman for the Keep Gaelic Games Free to Air group.


Last week, he pointed out that of the seven games Mayo played on their way to next Sunday's All Ireland final with Dublin, just two were shown on RTÉ or any terrestrial channel in the Republic.

In his motion, seen by The Irish Times, Cllr Cunniffe proposes that Galway CoCouncil "call on the GAA to reverse their policy of selling the exclusive broadcasting rights of Gaelic games to subscription viewing channels" and return to the long-held position of the GAA which ensured all championship Gaelic games were shown on terrestrial free-to-air channels "for all to see".

He notes how viewership differences between comparable fixtures on Sky and when TV3 had exclusive rights "were close to 400,000".

This 400,000 were now “ excluded as they cannot afford to subscribe to Sky. The average GAA fixture on TV3 attracted 289,000 viewers while Sky viewership was 10 times less, in the 20,000s.”

This was “especially hard for all those in hospitals, care homes, the elderly across rural Ireland, those with mobility issues, those in poor health, those on shift work and all those families who through limited financial means or other circumstances are unable to attend GAA fixtures but would love to watch their county teams,” his motion says.

It continues that the people who “built and sustain the GAA through selfless volunteerism are being excluded”.

If the GAA did not reverse this policy, his group would call on the Minister for Communications “to designate all Gaelic games as being Free-to-Air given their special resonance and distinct cultural significance and importance for the people of Ireland.”

Currently, this applies only to the hurling and football All-Ireland finals.

Last July the GAA-Sky Sports deal was raised in the Seanad by former Mayo, Galway and Leitrim county football manager, Senator John O'Mahony.

A former chairman of the Oireachtas Transport and Communications Committee, Senator O'Mahony said he was doing so "because all hell broke loose three years ago when the broadcasting rights to certain GAA games were sold to Sky Sports".

At the time “ordinary supporters believed they had not been consulted” and “they fear the number of pay-per- view games will increase in this round of negotiations.”

He had been requested "to raise the issue of pay-per- view broadcasting of sports events," he said and that "the group that contacted me wishes to keep Gaelic games free-to-air." He asked that Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross "outline his views on the matter."

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times