All kinds of views on GAA's Sky deal

A WEEK has passed since the GAA announced its latest broadcasting rights deal to cover the next three years.

And unless you've been living in a land devoid of media then you will know about the GAA hopping into bed, as it were, with Sky Television and handing them exclusive rights to broadcast 14 Championship games per year on their pay-per-view satellite service.

Much has been written and said about the deal - the first time the GAA has sold Championship games to a subscription channel, but not the first time it has sold games to such a broadcaster - and, as is always the case, there are those for, those against, and those who have completely lost the run of themselves.

Anyhow, for what it's worth here are a few observations.

(1) How many of the people going apoplectic over the Sky deal actually have Sky at home, and are just looking for a drum to beat and a bandwagon to jump on? Our bet is that the majority of those making the loudest noise about the GAA's "shameful and scandalous sell-out" are presently quite happy to switch on their Sky HD+ box of a Sunday afternoon and flick between the bit of Gah on RTE and Sky's Super Soccer Sunday, before settling down to watch League Sunday on the national broadcaster and then switching over to watch La Liga soccer on the Murdoch controlled Sky. Better still, they probably tell the wife the 'blashted dish' is out of sorts so they simply have to nip down to the pub to watch the closing holes of the golf.

(2) Aren't we already paying to watch GAA matches on "terrestrial" television? Last time I checked I shelled out €160 for a television licence, and to the best of my knowledge my elderly grandfather - now too old to go to the pub to watch Roscommon playing Connacht championship matches - recently dished out almost €100 for a Saorview box, in addition to his annual licence fee.

(3) Isn't it amazing the way the grassroots of the GAA have gotten all up in arms about not being asked beforehand about this latest deal. A little consultation would have been nice, they say, and perhaps it would. Two things on this: (a) as big an issue and all at this is, the GAA hierarchy have never before felt the need to 'go to the country' as it were for a steer on how to negotiate on broadcasting rights, so why do it now, and (b) to the best of my experience the grassroots are notoriously slack when it comes to either tabling meaningful motions at club and county board level or attending meetings and offering any kind of meaningful input.

(4) We don't buy the GAA's story about this deal being about bringing Gaelic games to the four corners of the earth as much as anything else. And the Croke Park blazers' assertion that Sky's broadcasting of the games - hurling in particular - would see the game take off and prosper abroad is ludicrous. RTE have been beaming hurling matches into Fermanagh for decades and we've yet to see the Erne-siders make a bold bid for the Liam McCarthy Cup. Can't see Fiji rattling the Cats anytime soon on the back of a few matches being piped into Suva.

(5) The notion that Sky's entry into the game will lead to a pay-for-play movement by the players is wide of the mark. It didn't happen with jersey sponsorship and it didn't happen when the GPA formed. What it might mean is that Sky will throw a few bob to the elite players for promotional advertising campaigns, but sure isn't that happening already. All the top counties have a player or two driving a sponsored car or getting paid to promote particular sportswear or for slugging from a certain energy drink. Pay-for-play isn't here, folks, but pay-for-promos most certainly is, and Sky's money won't change that.


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