The Sky is the limit for this new GAA deal ap­par­ently, or is it?

Bray People - - SPORT -

THE BIG news this week was the an­nounce­ment by the GAA of their new ar­range­ment with Sky Sports to broad­cast Gaelic games not only in Ire­land but across the globe.

This means that for the first time ever in Ire­land Gaelic games will be on a pay to view chan­nel. The new con­tract gives Sky exclusive rights to 14 live games which will in­clude two foot­ball quar­ter-fi­nals. All semi­fi­nals and fi­nals for the next three years will be aired by Sky but can also be seen on good old RTE.

The ini­tial con­tract with SkyY is for three years but let's not fool our­selves, Sky are here to stay and in three years time I sus­pect there will be se­ri­ous com­pe­ti­tion with RTE and Sky for greater rights and I fore­see only one win­ner.

I am an over­all sports en­thu­si­ast and en­joy watch­ing many sports on Sky such as soc­cer, golf and rugby and even cricket es­pe­cially T20 and high­lights of test matches. Sky are now the masters in the pro­duc­tion of these sports and do so at an ex­tremely high and pro­fes­sional stan­dard.

I've no doubt that their cov­er­age of Gaelic games will also be top rate. There has been sub­stan­tial dis­quiet about the new deal from many dis­grun­tled GAA fol­low­ers who may not have Sky and will now be pre­cluded from watch­ing these pay for view games.

Sur­pris­ingly only 20% of homes in Ire­land cur­rently have Sky Sports and to sign up for such a pack­age to solely watch these 14 games will cost in the re­gion of €32 per game.

Many el­derly GAA fans don't have Sky and up to now had no need for it. Also, there are many par­ents of young GAA fol­low­ers who can­not af­ford Sky. For many rea­sons both of these groups are not al­ways in a po­si­tion to at­tend live games.

The GAA have re­cently been anx­ious to dis­tance it­self from the drinks in­dus­try and how ironic it will be if this new deal forces people into pubs to watch our games.

The new deal will def­i­nitely im­prove the cov­er­age of Gaelic games for the Ir­ish Di­as­pora across the world es­pe­cially in Bri­tain.

For commercial and pro­mo­tional rea­sons the GAA are ex­tremely anx­ious to ex­plore new mar­kets, some may say that this is at the ex­pense of the game here in Ire­land. How­ever, this deal is all about money and don't be fooled into be­liev­ing any­thing else.

I said in a re­cent col­umn that the on­set of pro­fes­sion­al­ism in the GAA is gath­er­ing se­ri­ous mo­men­tum and this new deal will, I feel, greatly en­hance this.

It will be in­ter­est­ing to see the de­tails of the Sky deal and the amount that will be dis­trib­uted back to the grass­roots, i.e. the lo­cal clubs.

Will this deal en­able the GAA to re­duce ticket prices or at least main­tain them for the con­sid­er­able fu­ture?

I was sur­prised to see that the Gaelic Play­ers As­so­ci­a­tion had no in­volve­ment in draw­ing up this new deal.

Surely the play­ers, as the main stake­hold­ers in the or­gan­i­sa­tion, should have had an in­put.

It is the play­ers af­ter all that will have to give up their time for in­ter­views and have their games an­a­lysed to a se­ri­ous level and surely they should be com­pen­sated for this.

I have never seen an is­sue in the GAA be­ing so pub­licly de­bated and crit­i­cised. The open­ing up of Croke Park to soc­cer and rugby didn't gen­er­ate such a stir.

If the funds gen­er­ated im­prove player wel­fare and fa­cil­i­ties I would en­dorse the new deal. I would be hope­ful that the cov­er­age given to the lower di­vi­sions (which is cur­rently dis­grace­ful) will im­prove and in fair­ness to Sky they do cover com­pe­ti­tions at the lower end of the scale.

I also ac­knowl­edge the huge dis­ap­point­ment that many may feel if they are not in a po­si­tion to ac­cess Sky.

Huge con­grat­u­la­tions to Casey O'Brien, his back­room team and all the panel on win­ning the Di­vi­sion 2B Hurl­ing League fi­nal last Satur­day.

This vic­tory guar­an­tees a quick re­turn back to Di­vi­sion 2A where this Wick­low team be­longs.

Wick­low started both halves in a whirl­wind fash­ion and these early scor­ing blitzes set­tled the team and sent them on the road to vic­tory.

Wayne O'Gor­man's four ex­cel­lent points from play and Danny Staunton's three points were scores of a very high stan­dard and wor­thy of any match.

Mikey Lee con­tin­ued his ex­cel­lent scor­ing re­turn and fin­ished with a no­table 10 points.

This win will give the team great con­fi­dence as they pre­pare for an­other as­sault on the Christy Ring Cup.

What a breath­tak­ing end to the foot­ballers' last league game against Tip­per­ary on Sun­day.

Un­for­tu­nately it was all in vain as Clare recorded the nec­es­sary vic­tory over Antrim to guar­an­tee their pro­mo­tion.

The team can now pre­pare whole­heart­edly for their next chal­lenge against Laois in the Cham­pi­onship and on the bright side, an­other year in Di­vi­sion 4 may well give the man­age­ment an op­por­tu­nity to pro­mote some of the younger mem­bers of the panel to start­ing roles.

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