When the pandemic began to bite a few months ago, there was no shortage of takes on how the absence of sports content would affect the media.
Broadcasters made up a particular area of interest - there were ominous predictions of legal chaos between rights-holders and sporting bodies, with suggestions that the former would hold the latter to the letter of contracts worth millions upon millions
(Hence the flurry of postponements rather than cancellations, so that all sides might be appeased, however fleetingly.)
Of course, the total shutdown that rumbled on meant a lot of the discussions on what the restart would eventually mean were postponed in favour of reheated fare from years gone by.
Now live sport is back, so you needn’t watch the 2004 Munster hurling final or 1982 All-Ireland football final ever again.
Well, kind of joking, because the new dispensation means a lot of those postponed discussions can now take place, with some extra added ingredients.
For instance, if you enjoyed a livestream of a GAA game over the weekend, can I just raise a couple of points?
I’m not referring to the Examiner stream of games here, but the general absolution allowing clubs to stream games while the attendance limit a those games is set at 200, and the chance that complications may arise down the line.
Take insurance. If someone gets hurt in a game and wishes to make a claim, and an insurance company wants to see any and all available footage of the incident, what’s the legal standing of that footage?
Does it belong to the club? To the GAA? To the participants? Can a player object to it being relayed to a third party such as an insurance company in the absence of a pre-existing written agreement?
Would a claim be substantively affected if certain matters believed to be filmed were not made available to all parties concerned? Would a stream/footage generated by club X by acceptable to club Y in the case of disciplinary conflict over what happened on the field between them?
Before insurance companies even need to be involved there could be other issues. Wasn’t there once a by-law stating clubs needed written permission to film games, and even then it was for coaching purposes?
With that in mind, in a disciplinary hearing how acceptable would that footage be as an influencing factor in comparison, say, with the referee’s report? Which would take precedence?
Go further. What’ll happen next year, when - with any luck - this virus/lockdown is a distant memory?
What happens, say, when a club decides to fire up the smartphone next year and stream games again? Could a county board stop the club from doing so? Would it be entitled to do so?
A canny secretary could currently be sketching out a motion for this winter’s AGM advising club members that payment of their annual membership fee would entitle them to watch games being streamed by that club.
Cannier secretaries would of course be sticking another tenner on that membership fees to cover streaming costs.
And the canniest? When the club is fixed to play under lights at 7.30pm 30 or 40 miles away in October or November, could he or she decide to host a “live” broadcast in the club bar or local community hall, diverting much- needed funds from board coffers to the club coffers? Or could an enterprising local publican host a viewing and charge €10 for pizza to cover his costs?
Is anyone willing to tease this out and offer a roadmap - sorry - for some kind of accommodation of the parties and interests involved?
By those I mean the wishes of the GAA centrally, the GAA at county level and at club level, GDPR and insurance considerations, the legal entitlements of the various broadcasting companies and entities involved, the players, clubs and counties concerned, the sponsoring companies . . .
Busy times ahead for those conversant with the GAA rulebook.
I see that during the week some sports scholarships were announced in Waterford Institute of Technology.
Not the usual kind, though.
The report read: “The WIT Vikings Esports Scholarship is sponsored by ArcLabs and will included five main categories: League of Legends, Valorant, Counter Strike, Rocket League and FIFA ’20.
“This follows an announcement last year that software research centre Lero were to open an esports research lab in the Universtiy of Limerick, aimed at improving the performance of amateur and professional players. Esports has become increasingly popular in Ireland, with an estimated 700,000 people gaming regularly . . .”
If some of that report makes no sense to you, fear not, you are simply not one of those 700,00 people, which puts you in the majority.
But for how much longer? Esports are becoming more and more mainstream, and the scholarships are a particularly significant milestone, because they recognise the likely age profile of those gamers.
This is not my excuse for a Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells rant about the younger generation, by the way - it’s an acknowledgement that there’s a vast constituency out there whose sports interests run on a parallel track with the majority.
Just to note, though: parallel tracks never meet.
Genuine question. Why are some sports reporting lower levels of infection than others? Correction: why are some team sports reporting lower levels, etc?
I saw last week that one professional baseball team had 17 members diagnosed with coronavirus, 15 of whom were players - the Miami Marlins high rate of infection meant postponements and a scheduling headache that rumbles on even now.
Contrast that with the Premier League, which completed its fixtures without a problem.
I can’t imagine that teams in baseball’s Major League are significantly less well resourced than teams in the Premier League - the opposite, if anything - so why is the virus far more prevalent in the former?
The US isn’t covering itself in glory in general terms when it comes to fighting the virus, but you couldn’t say that England is leading the way in that regard either. Are professional baseball players more careless than their soccer counterparts?
I don’t have an answer to this puzzle - it just strikes me as odd that results can vary so widely here. If you have any theories feel free to share them with me.
Diane K. Shah has a book out, entitled A Farewell to Arms, Legs, and Jockstraps: A Sportswriter's Memoir, and it’s a recommendation, sight unseen.
Shah was a sportswriter and -columnist in the eighties, but branched into mystery novels and magazine features as well. The blurb advertises tales of dining with Frank Sinatra and tracking down the actual (mechanical) sharks used in the filming of Jaws, but Shah is a hero to sportswriters everywhere for her great piece, ‘Oh No! Another Boring Interview With Steve Carlton’.
Carlton was an unfriendly baseball player eventually skewered by Shah in this piece, which you can find pretty easily online. I won’t tell you the name of the athlete I’d use instead.