'It's just about revenue' - GAA under fire over new Sky deal

FG Senator John O'Mahony

Ryan Nugent

The GAA has come under fire after signing up to a new five-year TV deal with Sky Sports.

The deal will see the broadcaster air 20 championship matches a season between 2017 and 2021 - 14 of which will be exclusive to the channel.

State broadcaster RTE is set to show 31 matches each year as part of its contract with the GAA. The total media rights deal is worth around €60m.

It means Sky will now have broadcast GAA matches for eight years by the end of the new deal, having begun in 2014.

However, the Sky deal is all about earning money for the GAA rather than attempts to promote the sport abroad, according to Fine Gael Senator John O'Mahony. "It does discommode a certain amount of people who have supported their county teams all of their lives," Mr O'Mahony said.


"I became particularly aware of it last summer when four of the top five games that Mayo played in were exclusive to Sky. Even if they are giving games to Sky, that shouldn't arise.

"The old idea of promoting the GAA doesn't really stand up and it's now about revenue.

"If it's just for revenue, the danger is - maybe not with the current people involved - that down the road it will become more and more pay-per-view.

"That could never be tolerated by the GAA supporters around the country."

However, MEP and former GAA president Sean Kelly said that Sky deserves more time to develop a trusted audience.

Though he warned that if it that does not happen in the near future, the GAA will have to re-evaluate things.

"I didn't agree with it the last time because I felt it was making it difficult for elderly people and people maybe in hospital, they wouldn't be able to see the games," he said.

"However, there are two things that mitigated against that - one is that a motion [to stop pay-per-view] went to Congress and it got very little support. Secondly, if you're to try out something, you'd want to give it a few years to see if it will increase participation and attendances and so forth."


Meanwhile, commercial broadcaster Newstalk has hit out at RTE for taking full rights to radio coverage of the championship, after it lost its side of the deal with the GAA.

Newstalk sports editor Adrian Barry said that the state broadcaster was spending tax-payers' money on coverage that was already available to the public free of charge on their station.

"We believe we made a very competitive pitch to retain our live GAA commentary rights," Mr Barry said.

"We are disappointed that, after six years of innovative and extensive coverage, the GAA has decided not to renew that agreement.

"Despite RTE continuing to benefit from 85pc of the licence fee, today's decision begs the question as to why the state broadcaster would use state funding to purchase rights for a service that was already available to the public, free of charge, via Newstalk."