THOSE at the top of the GAA have lost all touch with the grassroots and put money before all else, it’s been claimed by Clare County Council members. Several of the speakers at the April meeting are former players or involved in local clubs.
Several councillors spoke out against the GAA-Sky deal, including vice-chairman of the county board, Joe Cooney, while Mayor of Clare, Joe Arkins, described it as the “thin end of a wedge that’s going to get a lot, lot thicker as time goes by”.
Councillors Cooney, Arkins and Michael Kelly put down a motion calling on the GAA to ensure that all of Ireland be able to watch games, without any additional cost. The three were bitingly critical of the decision to award Sky exclusive rights to games.
The mayor said that huge numbers of people have developed the GAA, helping in all sorts of ways, but many will now be denied the chance to watch intercounty games. “If you go into a nursing home on a Sunday afternoon, when a game is on, there will be the free channels there or nothing.” He also said many householders won’t be able to afford the Sky Sports packages.
Councillor Kelly said he has been involved in the GAA all his life but is “ashamed” of the deal. “An elite group at the top decided they would be greedy and take the estimated €32 million,” he commented. He said it was being done under the guise of bringing the games to a wider audience, something he didn’t accept was the real reason.
“Ordinary country people living alone, who like to watch the games in their own kitchen, will be deprived of it,” he added.
Councillor Joe Cooney also had concerns about the Sky deal. “A lot of people have put a lot of quality work into the GAA and the least they deserve is to relax and watch a match without having to travel to a hotel or public house.”
Councillor Gabriel Keating said the GAA’s management committee had made the decision, not central council, which meant that ordinary members of the association had no say. He said that some clarification about the benefits to clubs should be provided.
Regarding the decision-makers, he said, “Money is their God.” He also claimed they had forgotten the people who made the GAA.
Councillor Pat Hayes said he was “extremely disappointed” and predicted that it will hasten the end of the GAA’s amateur status, resulting in a situation where smaller clubs lose out and elite players move to the best-paying counties, away from those they are natives of.
He pointed out that ordinary GAA members had been given no say and he called on the Government to intervene.