Saturday 17 March 2018

O'Neill 'got a lot of nasty letters' over decision to agree Sky deal

Liam O'Neill: Hard call
Liam O'Neill: Hard call

Dermot Crowe

The outgoing GAA president Liam O'Neill has said that he received hate mail as a result of the decision to agree a deal with Sky to broadcast championship matches for the first time. The controversial arrangement gave the company exclusive rights to 14 matches, available only as part of a subscription package.

"Look, it was a hard call. We made the decision that we felt was in the best interests of the organisation and the majority in Ireland, I think, agreed. Only one person personally confronted me. I got a number of letters. And I got a lot of nasty letters."

O'Neill will hand over the presidency to his successor, Aogán ó Fearghail, at GAA Congress in Cavan next Saturday afternoon, having attended to his final duties. He will then return to his job as school principal in the Laois village of Trumera. He admitted that being president had been a lifelong goal.

He also defended the decision not to allow a Clare motion hostile to the Sky deal to be debated at Congress, pointing out that only motions which involved a rule change or amendment were allowed. This was in order to reduce previously overloaded Congress agendas. He refuted claims that the GAA was stifling debate, arguing that the matter can be raised at Central Council by any county.

O'Neill said Sky had failed to win television rights in three previous rounds of negotiations and that it was felt they had earned a shot. "But we weighed up things and made the decision. The only decision I really had to make, basically, was if they were good enough, were we brave enough to go with them? If it was the right thing to do, were we brave enough to take the flak?"

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