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GAA see red as RTE put Euro 2008 games ahead of Leinster championship

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A MAJOR row over live television coverage blew up between RTE and the GAA yesterday after it emerged that the national broadcaster was set to snub two Leinster championship matches in favour of live coverage of Euro 2008 games.

Frantic negotiations are ongoing in an attempt to salvage at least one of the matches which RTE had previously agreed to cover, particularly because one is in the hurling championship, of which RTE, embarrassingly, is now a competition sponsor.

Angry words were exchanged after RTE informed the GAA that it would not be covering the upcoming Leinster SHC semi-final between Dublin/Wexford on Saturday, June 14, and the province's SFC quarter-final between Offaly and Westmeath a week earlier.

Only last Monday, Leinster Council announced that it was bringing forward the throw-in times for both games from 7pm to 6.30pm to facilitate live television, and both games were listed on the GAA's agreed original 'live' schedule with RTE.

RTE's apparently sudden decision to jettison these matches in favour of showing two 5pm soccer matches (Switzerland v Czech Republic and Sweden v Spain) prompted immediate outrage in GAA circles and early speculation that it was because of the poor quality of some of the early championship matches.

However, the Irish Independent understands that RTE officials are blaming the change on a scheduling cock-up by the GAA. Montrose officials are arguing they understood that the two Leinster games were to have early afternoon throw-ins, which meant they would not clash with their Euro 2008 coverage.

Leinster Council and several county boards are up in arms over the U-turn, particularly as host counties were set to pick up cash bonuses this summer for live television.

The row could not have come at a worse time for RTE whose monopoly has been broken by rival station TV3 this summer.

TV3 is starting its live television coverage with the meeting of Clare and Waterford hurlers this weekend and kicked off a new 'magazine' preview show with some big-name analysts last night.

Neither RTE nor Croke Park would comment yesterday and Leinster GAA Chairman Seamus Howlin would only say that "we are in ongoing talks with RTE and would hope to come to some agreement in the next 48 hours."

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The Irish Independent understands that the likely compromise will be to cover the Dublin/Wexford hurling game, but that the Offaly/Westmeath game will be kicked to touch.

That will have immediate repercussions, with the Offaly County Board likely to seek cash compensation.

This summer's new arrangements guarantees host counties €30,000 per live match because county boards have to remove all local signage and allow it be replaced by advertising for the GAA's new title sponsors.


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