Sky falls in on GAA motions against pay TV deals

Motions opposing Sky deal fail to make clár for GAA Congress

 

None of the three motions seeking to end the GAA’s controversial subscription-based TV rights deal have made it the Congress clár later this month.

Croke Park today published the successful motions, 42 in total, including two already approved by Central Council: after the near revolution in championship structures and calendar dates last year, Congress 2018 looks like being a particularly peaceful affair when it takes place at Croke Park on the last weekend of this month, February 23rd/24th.

Three counties had approved motions on the TV rights issue, each effectively stemming from the GAA deal with Sky Sports, first agreed in 2014 - then extended for another five years last year, through to 2021.

All, however, were ruled out on the basis they essentially mirrored a 2016 motion, tabled by the St Joseph’s Boys club in Dublin “that all intercounty championship matches broadcast live be available free-to-air. This is aimed at preventing the GAA from any renewal of the exclusive subscription television deal with Sky Sports - or any other such broadcaster.”

That motion was firmly defeated at Congress 2016 (15-85) and as it failed to receive one-third backing, a similar motion may not be permitted on the clár in the subsequent three years “unless the Management Committee allows it in exceptional circumstances”.

The Clare county convention had successfully passed a motion opposing exclusive TV deals, while Leitrim and Roscommon both called on the GAA not to renew their broadcasting deals with Sky and also their deal with Eir Sport, after they elapse in 2021.

All motions must be approved by the GAA Rules Advisory Committee to make the official clár: the Leitrim and Roscommon motions were similar to the 2016 motion, although the Clare motion was looking to make all hurling and football championship matches available on a “non-subscription channel” - in other words not “exclusively” on Sky.

Again this was at the discretion of the Rules Advisory Committee, and not deemed as “exceptional circumstances”; motions are also deemed ineligible if they don’t address a particular rule change.

GAA director general Páraic Duffy has repeatedly warned against eliminating the option of subscription TV deals, making the point: “Other sports bodies are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their exploitation of their broadcast rights, so the work to maintain the GAA presence on television intensifies accordingly.”

In December 2016, the GAA announced a five-year extension of its TV rights, worth an estimated €55 million, whereby RTÉ and Sky Sports got to retain their current TV packages (although in radio, RTÉ got full commentary rights to all games after Newstalk lost out). That came into effect for last summer’s championship, RTÉ getting access to 31 senior championship games each year, Sky also retaining their rights to 20 games, 14 of them exclusive, including two All-Ireland football quarter-finals.

With no revised competition structures on the clár (except at minor football level), 2018 Congress motions will be largely about housekeeping and technical matters; 2020 is also the next year when counties may brings motions to Congress looking to make changes to playing rules.

Motion 1, from Central Council, is calling on betting firms to be prohibited from engaging in any form of GAA sponsorship from 2019 onwards. Congress 2017 also passed a motion that prohibits a player, a team, a member of a team management or match official involved in a match from betting on the outcome of any aspect of that match.

The Club Players Association (CPA) have also tabled a motion on voting accountability. Tipperary’s motion aiming to define a “melee” also made it to the clár - following the fallout from the Davy Fitzgerald and Jason Forde incident during Tipperary’s league semi-final clash with Wexford. Under the motion, a melee must include five players or persons.

Since 2017 Congress, only a 60 per cent majority is required for motions to be deemed successful.

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