GAA unhappy with the RTE reaction

With most of the debate centring on the involvement of Sky Sports, the arrangements for areas outside of Ireland and Britain was lost in all the rhetoric., writes Nickey Brennan.

With most of the debate centring on the involvement of Sky Sports, the arrangements for areas outside of Ireland and Britain was lost in all the rhetoric., writes Nickey Brennan.

Bringing Channel 7 on board in Australia was a major coup for the GAA given their coverage of all major sports in that sports-mad country.

The new alliance between RTE Digital and RTE to show all championship games live on personal technology devices such as PCs, Tablets and iPhones is a wonderful development. And let us not forget that this will be a nice money-earner for RTE.

On line access to games using these devices will be available in countries where it is not shown via a TV media partner. That will be good news for many, including Irish holiday makers.

Those who prefer to visit a pub to see Gaelic games abroad can continue to do so. That gives plenty of options for overseas residents and Irish travellers who wish to view live games.

I was taken aback by the reaction from RTE to the new contract. In the previous contract RTE got about 10 less games, but that drew little reaction from the state broadcaster.

This time they kept the same number of games and entered into a new arrangement with the GAA to broadcast globally on digital media. That extra business clearly cut no ice with RTE such was their reaction to the involvement of Sky Sports.

RTE was fully entitled to ask hard questions of the GAA, particularly relating to Sky Sports and the potential impact of their involvement on the ’Association.

But the aggressive nature of the questioning of President Liam O’Neill and Director General, Paraic Duffy was unreasonable and unacceptable. Can anyone remember officers of the other two major Irish sporting bodies getting the same grilling when media rights were being awarded?

Clearly RTE took the GAA’s decision personally and went for the jugular. The frenzy built up by the RTE broadcasts clearly angered the GAA. The strong response from Liam O’Neill was understandable.

RTE has access to all GAA financial data, yet only on a few occasions did its presenters question the views of those opposed to the new contract. I respect the right of anyone to oppose the new arrangement, but there is a clear onus on presenters to balance the views being presented on air with real facts and data.

It is worth reminding readers that the GAA at central level distributes in the region of 80% of all its income to provincial and county units. That amounted to over €41 million last year.

A couple of months ago Croke Park launched a scheme aimed at raising funds specifically for GAA clubs. All costs, including some nice prizes, were funded by Croke Park. Over 960 GAA units participated. The draw generated almost €2.5 million. Surprisingly, Kilkenny clubs showed little interest with only nine clubs participating. Nevertheless, the draw raised €8,550 for Kilkenny clubs.

The spotlight now falls on Sky Sports. They may be a global media conglomerate, but taking on Gaelic games will be an altogether new experience.

Time will tell how well they can satisfy a well versed new audience.

RTE does a fine job presenting Gaelic games. With a new and serious competitor now on board, Montrose will have to reappraise how it will approach its Gaelic games output. I am sure the new competition will bring out the best in RTE.

Right now the GAA’s main media partner has a lot of bridge-building to do. They have given the GAA plenty of reasons to be angry.

Three years will pass quickly. By then a new terrestrial TV station will have been established in Ireland. UTV may not have shown much interest in Gaelic games up to now, but they will realise its importance once they are operating in the Republic.

They, along with ITV in the UK, may well be a very interested party in three years time.