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The GAA's Deal With Sky Sports Is Now In Serious Jeopardy

The GAA's Deal With Sky Sports Is Now In Serious Jeopardy
By Conor Neville
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Last year, the Clare county board attempted to get a motion debated at Congress demanding that all televised GAA matches be shown on free-to-air TV.

The GAA ruled the motion out of order and said it could not be debated on the grounds that it neither amended a rule nor enacted one.

This was heavily criticised at the time with the Sunday Independent's Eamonn Sweeney labelling the GAA's maneuvering as 'procedural jiggery pokery'.

This year, however, the Sky deal will be debated at Congress.

Inner city club St. Joseph's O'Connell Boys tabled a motion at the Dublin Convention last month proposing that, 'all televised inter-county championship games be made available on free-to-air TV'.

A representative of the club told us that their view is that 'it is Congress that should determine the association's policy in this matter and they (members) were never allowed a say in the matter in the first place.'

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The motion was adopted almost unanimously at the Dublin convention after a show of hands.

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Unlike the Clare motion, the Dublin motion has succeeded in making it to the Congress floor. There are 65 motions to be debated at Congress on the weekend of February 26th/27th with the Dublin motion been listed as 'Motion 42'.

It will require a two-thirds majority if it is to pass. Should the motion succeed, then Sky Sports would no longer enjoy exclusive rights to inter-county championship matches from 2017 onwards.

UCD's Paul Rouse, a tenacious critic of the Sky deal, has consistently drawn attention to the low numbers watching games on Sky and the decline in the numbers of people seeing live games in this country due to the paywall.

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In 2013, 442,800 people watched Dublin's All-Ireland quarter final against Cork on TV3. The following year, an average of 59,000 watched Dublin's quarter-final against Monaghan.

Then GAA President Liam O'Neill said that they were not concerned about the numbers of people watching Sky's coverage in Ireland. The deal with Sky was signed with Britain in mind.

We were never that worried about the people in Ireland watching the game on Sky. It was for Britain we did the Sky deal effectively and the numbers there are standing up very well.

However, the figures for British viewership don't look too healthy either. Only 32,000 viewers in the UK tuned into the Kilkenny-Galway All-Ireland hurling final. This was down 72,000 on the numbers from the 2014 drawn game.

Read more: Aidan O'Shea: 'I'm Just So Sick Of Championship Structures. I Didn't Even Read GPA One'

 

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