Monday 26 August 2019

Micheal O Muircheartaigh says Sky deal will isolate older supporters

Sam Griffin

TV3 and GAA members have hit out at the organisation's three-year deal with Sky Sports.

The commercial broadcaster had been in negotiations to renew its contract once again with the GAA, having first secured a deal in 2008.

In a statement, TV3 expressed its "disappointment" with the move and said an offer by the broadcaster had been "superseded by the GAA's preference for a pay television strategy".

Sources in TV3 said it had become "obvious" during the negotiations that the GAA wanted to pursue a "paid route".

"We had a great relationship (with the GAA) over the last six years, so it is disappointing."

The source added that the GAA would probably meet "criticism" from supporters.

RTE, which will broadcast 31 championship games as part of the newly inked deal, declined to comment specifically on Sky Sports' entry into the GAA market but said it was delighted with the terms of the three-year contract. A spokesperson added: "Competition isn't something that is new for RTE and we've had competition for the last number of season for GAA. Audiences tend to choose RTE's coverage."

But the decision to do a deal with Sky has angered supporters and members of the organisation, including legendary broadcaster Micheal O Muircheartaigh, who said the move was "a break form tradition and would isolate older GAA supporters".

"A fair percentage of elderly people and people in rural areas will not have access to Sky television. It will be a major, major break from tradition. Sky represents major multinational business and some people won't like that," he said.

The GAA has defended its decision, with President Liam O'Neill saying Sky's coverage of games would open up GAA to the Irish abroad.

"When our membership see this package in its entirety they will understand that we are actually carrying out our mandate given to us to bring our games globally."

Minister of State for Tourism and Sport Michael Ring said he had "concerns" about Sky winning the rights to some GAA matches.

"I would have some concerns about the restriction to GAA games with Sky, particularly in these economic times where a lot of people around the country don't have Sky because they cant afford it," he said.

He said he felt all GAA games should be free to air, but acknowledged the GAA's efforts to make the game more internationally known.

Irish Independent

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