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Embattled GAA: Sky deal necessary for overseas fans

Chiefs grilled over controversial deal

Niall O'Connor, Political Correspondent

Published 15/04/2014 | 12:57

GAA director general Padraic Duffy
GAA director general Padraic Duffy

GAA chiefs are today defending their decision to agree a controversial new broadcasting contract with Sky Sports.

The association's Director General Paraic Duffy and President Liam Duffy are addressing the Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communications - two weeks after the GAA agreed to provide Sky with exclusive rights to certain championship games.

Mr Duffy told TDs and senators that the GAA felt it had to strike a balance between serving GAA fans at home and abroad.

He said that Irish emigrants are better served by the deal and insisted that the GAA has no plans whatsoever to put all games on a subscription basis.

GAA chiefs today hit out at criticism of the media deal and said it will only result in a small reduction in the number of free to air games.

"We don't believe that the charge made against GAA of disenfranchising supporters is sustainable," Mr Duffy said.

"Due to the unfortunate upturn in Irish emigration...it is no longer tenable for the GAA to see the audience of Gaelic games as living solely in Ireland," he added.

The controversial deal will see 14 games that were previously free to air become only accessible via Sky Sports.

Fianna Fáil TD Timmy Dooley said that the decision will impact significantly on elderly people and hard-pressed families.

"What do you say to the family, the husband and wife with three kids who cant afford the sky package because of the economic climate we find ourselves in," he added.

However, Mr Duffy emphasised that the GAA had to base its approach on the significant number of GAA fans living abroad.

"If we had decided that all tv coverage of our games were to be free to air, we would have to abandon what we see as our obligation to GAA supporters abroad," he told the committee.

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