THE GAA still has a lot of questions to answer over its deal with Sky Sports for TV rights, Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Sport Timmy Dooley said this Tuesday. Under the agreement, Sky has been given exclusive rights to 14 games, including two All-Ireland Football quarter finals involving the Leinster and Ulster champions.
GAA director general, Paraic Duffy and president, Liam O’Neill appeared before the Oireachtas Transport and Communications Committee earlier today to outline the rationale behind the new broadcasting contract.
Deputy Dooley said, “Despite the appearance by Mr Duffy and Mr O’Neill, there are still a lot of questions about the decision to sell off national games to an outside broadcaster. The association says it has to base its approach on the significant number of fans living abroad, but I would argue it could do that without alienating its fans at home. The deal with RTE digital will allow fans in the UK and US access to games, while the arrangement with Channel 7 affords the same opportunities to supporters in Australia. When asked about any link between the Sky and Channel 7 deals, Mr O’Neill would not answer directly. It would appear to me that the Sky rights were not needed to secure the agreement in Australia”.
“The GAA is 100% correct in wanting to cater for the Irish abroad; however, it should not be done at a cost to loyal fans here at home. Supporters will have to fork out €64 a month to be able to see all of the championship matches. The semi-finals and finals may be free to air, but the games that are important to the average fan are the ones that their county is playing in, not necessarily the big ticket games, and it’s these very games that have been sold off to Sky. The GAA has effectively taken 14 matches away from Irish fans.
“What happens to the older person who doesn’t want or need a Sky subscription? For many, the summer GAA programme is the highlight of their week. They can’t be expected to pay out an extra €64 a month for a service they’ve enjoyed for free up until now. Or the family, already on the breadline, who simply can’t afford to pay a subscription charge?,” he charged.
Deputy Dooley also expressed concern about what the precedent this deal sets. “Will Sky be allowed to demand more exclusive games when this agreement comes up for renewal in three years’ time? The GAA says it’s determined to ‘maintain the balance’ between free to air and subscription games, but how can that be guaranteed. I’m concerned that as time goes on, more matches will be handed over to subscription broadcasters, and more people will be alienated from our national sport. The GAA says it wants to widen the appeal of football and hurling, but if they sell off the sport to a subscription service they reduce the grass roots audience here at home.