Sky GAA deal could trigger €6m windfall
THE Sky deal to broadcast GAA games could trigger a €6m economic boost through tourism, according to the sports consultancy run by former rugby international Keith Wood.
The deal has been hugely controversial, with claims that it robbed supporters of the chance to watch all televised games for free.
But the GAA has staunchly defended the move, insisting that it allowed the diaspora a chance to tune in to clashes, as well as growing the profile of Gaelic games overseas.
Mark O'Connell, who founded W2 Consultancy with former Ireland captain Wood, agrees there is huge potential to be tapped.
"On the back of the Sky deal, GAA games could easily deliver 8,000 additional sports tourists each year to Ireland," he said.
The 14 GAA games that were previously free to air will now only be accessible via Sky Sports, but Mr O'Connell predicts that broadcasting them internationally will provide a major platform for Ireland.
"The Sky deal with the GAA is a huge opportunity for tourism here, as it will trigger huge international interest in the sport – and people will want to come to Ireland to witness games first hand."
The global sports tourism industry is worth €450bn, and with the new GAA deal Ireland could get a larger cut of the revenue. "We conservatively estimate that it would generate about 16,000 bed nights and amount to €3.6m in direct expenditure, with a total economic impact of €6m," he said.
Mr O'Connell was speaking ahead of the European Sport Tourism Summit, which takes place in Thomond Park, Limerick, on May 15, where Wood and former Lions and England rugby player Lawrence Dallaglio will speak.
Mr O'Connell said tourists and sports enthusiasts generally fall in love with football and hurling when they visit: "Any visitors we have brought to games over the years are immediately won over and cannot understand why they are not better known internationally.
"The GAA story is captivating for them – the skill involved, the fact that the players are not paid, that geography dictates what team they play for."