Sunday 17 December 2017

Pay for play not on agenda following latest Sky TV deal

With Division Three status safe, Pat Flanagan felt it worthwhile to use his panel and fielded an experimental starting fifteen against Roscommon in the last round of the League.

It hasn't happened to often recently that our faith was sealed prior to the last game and it afforded the manager a chance to let fringe players make a statement.

There were a number of positive Sligo performers.

Vinnie Cadden dealt with everything well, Johnny Martyn had a very good game in the pivotal centre half back position while alongside him Luke Bree and Mark Quinn were always taking responsibility of getting on the ball and taking charge of the game.

At midfield Shane McManus got on a lot of possession and up front Stephen Coen showed up very well.

The big GAA issue recently was the selling of TV rights to Sky Sports which again divided opinion across the country with many good GAA people up in arms over this transaction.

Prior to anyone knowing what the deal really was there was way too much discussion on this topic and RTE in my mind were out of order in their coverage as they or anyone else are not entitled to the monopoly on Gaelic Games.

The reality is that Sky have 14 exclusive games out of over 40 championship games that are going to be shown live.

We need to remember back twenty five years ago when there was only All-Ireland semi-finals and finals shown on live TV, such was the lack of coverage.

The GAA has evolved over this time and television forms a huge part of the GAA's revenue which eighty per cent goes back into the game at every level and is required to keep promoting Gaelic games, such is the level of competition from other sports, namely rugby.

Every County in Ireland has benefited by millions over the last number of years in the form of grants, loans and coaching funds to mention a few.

I know Sligo could not even contemplate a 'centre of excellence' without the support from Croke Park. I picked up one of the national papers last week and there were ten pages devoted to rugby and two to Gaelic games on this particular day.

Gaelic games needs to be promoted at the highest level with competition good for the likes of RTE. RTE were happy enough if TV 3 are involved as they know they can hands down beat their coverage but SKY is a different story.

While the thorny issue of 'pay for play' always raises its head in times like this when the GAA does a commercial deal I do not think it is the players' or the GPA's agenda.

However, players' welfare and how they are treated in every other aspect is vitally important for the future of the game.

We have seen huge improvements in this regard with 'players charters' drawn up that sets out how each individual county squad is treated regarding meals after training, football boots, gear allocations, mileage to and from training and matches, medical needs, all-Ireland ticket allowances to name some.

You compare this to my own time playing which is not all that long ago when two all-Ireland tickets would be raffled between the panel of players and your ten pence a mile expenses would be divided in two by the time you got them. Things did slowly start improving.

I remember twenty years ago getting our first 'training top' kindly sponsored by Clifford Electrical and NCF sponsoring us milk after training coming up to championship time of year, and thinking wow haven't we come a long way.

I do not support 'pay for play'. However, I feel player welfare needs to keep improving at every other level from medical/scientific to all the other requirements that is required so that they can perform to the highest level. If extra revenue is needed so be it, and at the same time promote the games well beyond these shores.

Sligo Champion

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