GAA matches on Sky not fair play


IHAVE to say I was a quite sur­prised when I heard at the weekend that the GAA was in talks with Sky about the air­ing of hurl­ing and foot­ball matches on TV. Ru­mours were rife that the GAA was sell­ing out to Sky and that sports fans across the coun­try would, for the first time ever, have to pay to watch their GAA teams in ac­tion this sum­mer

While the re­al­ity isn't quite as dra­matic - it's be­lieved RTE and Sky will share the rights to the ma­jor­ity of the matches, in­clud­ing the All Ire­land fi­nal - it is nonethe­less go­ing to anger many GAA fans who will ul­ti­mately miss out on cer­tain games un­less they pay a sub­scrip­tion to Sky Sports.

It may only be a hand­ful of games that Sky will have exclusive rights to, but for die hard GAA fans it's a hand­ful too many.

Take the fans - par­tic­u­larly the el­derly - who are quite happy with their three or four free-to-air chan­nels and like noth­ing more than sit­ting down on a Sun­day to watch their team in ac­tion. I can't imag­ine they'll be too im­pressed hav­ing to fork out a monthly sub­scrip­tion to Sky to watch GAA.

'Can't they just go to the pub and watch it?' some people might ar­gue. But I know sev­eral hurl­ing and foot­ball fans who wouldn't even con­tem­plate go­ing to the lo­cal to watch a GAA match. Nor should they have to.

Then of course there's the whole is­sue of how much pubs are be­ing charged for their sub­scrip­tion - far more than a pri­vate sub­scriber . I heard a fig­ure of over EURO 600 per month be­ing bandied about.

As the in­dus­try continues to strug­gle, par­tic­u­larly in ru­ral ar­eas, an an­nual sub­scrip­tion of over €7,000 sim­ply isn't an op­tion for the ma­jor­ity of small pub own­ers.

How­ever the GAA will try to play it down and con­vince fans that ex­po­sure of our na­tional game abroad can only be a good thing, sell­ing the rights to some games is not a clever move from a PR point of view.

It's a money mak­ing ex­er­cise, ob­vi­ously, but it's a bit­ter pill for ded­i­cated fans to swal­low con­sid­er­ing the GAA's lat­est ac­counts show that the or­gan­i­sa­tion took in al­most €1m per week in 2012.

It's one thing to ask fans to pay at the turn­stiles, but surely it's a step too far to ask arm­chair view­ers to do the same?

GAA fans could be hit with TV sub­scrip­tion charges to watch some of this year's All-Ire­land cham­pi­onship games.

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