Growing opposition among west of Ireland county councils to any new Sky/GAA deal

GAA urged to ensure supporters see football and hurling games on ‘free-to-air’ television

The Keep Gaelic Games Free to Air campaign was set up “to draw attention to the exclusion of so many loyal GAA members, volunteers and supporters as a result of the policy shift taken by the GAA”.

The Keep Gaelic Games Free to Air campaign was set up “to draw attention to the exclusion of so many loyal GAA members, volunteers and supporters as a result of the policy shift taken by the GAA”.

 

Mayo and Sligo county councils have joined their Galway and Kerry counterparts in unanimous opposition to another deal between pay-per-view channel Sky Sports TV and the GAA.

All four county councils have passed motions calling on the GAA to review its deal with Sky Sports to ensure supporters are allowed see their teams playing in the football and hurling championships on “free-to-air” television.

It is understood other county councils are to discuss similar motions at meetings next month. Most are along the western seaboard where penetration by Sky Sports is low.

Paul Rouse of UCD’s history department noted how “over the two years since it agreed to sell exclusive rights to broadcast almost one-third of its championship games to Sky Sports, the GAA hierarchy has dismissed opposition to the deal as ‘whining and moaning’ and has claimed the deal has been a ‘huge success’”.

‘Nonsense’

That, he said, was “nonsense”, noting that “the average home viewership in the UK for the 2015 All-Ireland SHC final on Sky Sports was 29,700”. In Ireland, “for as high profile a hurling championship game as Cork v Clare in 2015, the average viewership on Sky Sports, who had exclusive rights, was 37,700. These figures are atrocious,” he said.

As a comparison he pointed out how “on June 17th, 2015 (to pick one random night), the average viewership for Oireachtas Report, when it was shown after midnight on RTÉ One, was 44,400.”

The Keep Gaelic Games Free to Air campaign has accused the GAA of “rampant commercialisation of our volunteer-led, community-based, amateur sporting organisation”. It was set up “to draw attention to the exclusion of so many loyal GAA members, volunteers and supporters as a result of the policy shift taken by the GAA”, it said.

“One of the main arguments put forward by the GAA for selling broadcasting rights to Sky Sports is that it promotes the game. The figures available for games broadcast exclusively on Sky Sports confirm the failure of this stated objective,” it said.

“Any and all decisions, including decisions on broadcasting rights entered into by Croke Park, that result in the exclusion of so many members, volunteers and supporters from watching and participating in the full enjoyment of our national games is the business of all of us who care about the future of our organisation and its administration,” it said.

“The business of the GAA is the business of every club, every parish, every townland, every town and city, in all corners of urban and rural Ireland,” it said.