Monday 18 December 2017

amazing

Eugene McGee

Eugene McGee

GAA coverage across the various media outlets nowadays is massive. There is an insatiable demand for news and information among followers of our national games.

It is hardly surprising, then, that there is fierce competition between various branches of the media such as newspapers, television, radio and, latterly, Twitter and the various derivatives of what are euphemistically described as 'social media'.

In the GAA context, many of these internet outlets are anything but 'social.'

We have an interesting showdown looming between the All Stars steering committee, RTE television and the broader newspaper family arising from the forthcoming selection of the All Star teams, which are now to be called the 'GAA GPA All Stars sponsored by Opel' -- a mouthful which I will not repeat in this article.

For many, many years, there was an unwritten agreement regarding the publicity attached to the All Stars occasion -- the last big GAA media event of the year.

The deal was that one of the teams would be announced in the newspapers a couple of days before the All Stars banquet and the other would be named at the actual banquet. It was a fair system in that each of the two major media outlets -- newspapers and television/radio -- got their share of the coverage at first-hand.

But this year things seem to have changed and the powers-that-be have proposed that both teams will be reserved for announcement on the night of the banquet, October 21.

That means no newspapers or any other media will get first call on the naming of even one of the teams.

I am not a fan of co-incidences with regard to decision-making in the GAA, so it would appear to me that the journalists who actually select these All Star teams have been pushed aside.

Three other parties are also involved in the All Stars process -- the GAA, the GPA (for the first time) and new sponsors Opel.

The president is are normally a member of the Steering Committee that runs the All Stars scheme.

Eaten bread is soon forgotten is the phrase that springs to my devious mind in this instance.

It was newspaper people who devised, developed and founded the All Stars with the sponsorship of Carrolls cigarettes and their master PR tactician, Pat Heneghan.

Since the foundation of the scheme 40 years ago, it has been the newspapers -- national and local -- or more specifically the journalists attached to them, who selected the teams, promoted the scheme widely and generally preserved the current high status of it by giving it the esteem which the teams always obtained -- because high profile journalists all over the country, and not just 'that crowd up in Dublin', publicly put their names to the selections.

The word is that current president Christy Cooney is in favour of the new system, whereby both teams will be announced at the banquet, leaving the newspapers to wait until the following day to inform their readers.

Presumably, the sponsors have a contribution to make, along with a small group of the selected journalists representing the newspapers and also the broadcast media.

The, GPA which formerly organised their own All Star teams under Opel sponsorship, will now be announcing their Player of the Year in football and hurling at the actual banquet. So, not even the scraps will be left for the newspapers, it seems.

Television is a powerful medium in Ireland -- especially when sports events are covered live -- and RTE has been very well served by their coverage of All Stars banquets for the past four decades.

But it is highly debatable whether RTE should have exclusive coverage on major national sporting events. Could you imagine it happening on the day of an All-Ireland hurling or football final ?

After all, if recent history is followed, there will be no live GAA coverage on RTE television from now until next May or June -- a gap of eight months or two thirds of the year.

On the other hand, all the newspapers, national and local, along with local and other radio stations, will provide wonderful and extensive live coverage of GAA activities throughout those eight months that RTE television is in GAA hibernation.

On that basis, it is difficult to understand what is being proposed as regards the coverage of the All Star announcements.

It is even harder to understand how a tradition which has worked so well for many years is about to be done away with.

The journalists are very unhappy about this development and are, I understand, are still attempting to retain the staus quo.

It would be amazing if the GPA agrees with the proposed change. For commercial reasons, sponsors Opel are entitled to seek exclusive RTE television coverage -- but they certainly have no God-given right to get it.

None of the major sponsors of All Stars schemes over the past 39 years ever got such a monopoly on team announcements.

We do not know what the GAA's stance on the matter is, but, generally speaking, television nowadays seems to be more benignly received by the GAA than the newspaper journalists.

The fact that Opel were previously GPA sponsors and are now GAA sponsors complicates the issue somewhat.

This is not a life-and-death issue for GAA people, of course, as their appetite for coverage of the All Stars will be met.

However, there is a very important principle at stake regarding the relationship between live television and newspaper coverage in sport.

Apart from live coverage for one hour per year, RTE television gives scant attention to the All Stars scheme in comparison to the extensive coverage the newspapers provide over longer periods every year.

A rethink here is needed immediately, preferably by the people who made the original decision to abandon the tradition of the past 39 years.

I might add that I am not currently involved with the All Stars scheme nor do I own any newspapers.

Irish Independent

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