Sport GAA

Friday 20 October 2017

GAA's no place for debate on Sky deal

Michael McDonagh: 'It will come again next year'
Michael McDonagh: 'It will come again next year'

Eamonn Sweeney

Just call me Nostradamus Sweeney. This day last week, I suggested the GAA might resort to "procedural jiggery-pokery" to prevent a Clare motion calling for the Association to stop selling exclusive TV rights to pay channels.

I kind of felt bad writing that. Perhaps I was being a bit harsh. But, lo and behold, last week, the GAA announced the Clare motion wouldn't be allowed before Congress because it didn't "amend a rule or enact one".

Does your heart good, doesn't it?

Now I'm sure the GAA have acted in an entirely ethical manner. Who could doubt that?

Yet, Clare are understandably peeved that their motion has been nobbled. County board chairman, Michael McDonagh, described the decision as a "shame", saying: "A number of Clare clubs put this forward at Convention and the understanding was that it would be discussed at Congress. I believe it's the place to discuss such a motion and whether it's successful or not, at least it showed the ordinary member of the GAA could get their point across through their clubs and their county boards. I know a number of other counties wanted it discussed."

Poor Michael. He obviously thinks the ordinary member of the GAA has some kind of right to have an input into decisions like the Sky deal. But the feeling in Croke Park, if we can judge from the line taken by their media lackeys, is that things like Congress are "cumbersome" and "unwieldy" when it comes to making decisions. Better to go with a streamlined process where decisions are made by a small elite.

And if you think that's antithetical to the spirit of the Association, it just shows how behind the times you are.

But the thing is that when Liam O'Neill tells everyone that there's majority support within the GAA for the Sky broadcasting deal, he'll be talking through his hat. Because, in the absence of a debate, he doesn't know that for sure.

And I can't help thinking of how back in 2005, when every single motion in favour of opening Croke Park to other sports was ruled out of order, Seán Kelly enabled the motions to resubmitted.

He did so because he thought it was important for ordinary members to have their say on a crucial issue and that debate should not be stifled by a technicality. Whether you are for or against the Sky deal, most GAA people have an opinion on the matter. That these views will not be aired at Congress is a shame.

Michael McDonagh vowed Clare will pursue this again next year. "It will come again next year," he says, "and I believe that if it's put before the membership, it would be passed because the ordinary GAA man and woman wants the games on terrestrial television".

I believe that, too, but I wish him the best of luck of getting the motion on to the 2016 Clár.

In other news, Sky have paid£4.1bn for the rights to the Premier League. That will have to be paid for somehow, of course, and increasing package charges looks an obvious option, thus pushing Sky's GAA games out of the reach of some more hard-pressed members of the Association.

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