GPA hits out at ‘lamentable’ RTÉ product placement ban

THE GPA has hit back at RTÉ’s decision to forbid GAA players from drinking Club Energise during post-match interviews this season, but the station claims it is bound by law to issue the prohibition.

Controversy arose in recent weeks when it emerged GPA members were being paid €500 for displaying bottles of Club Energise in televised interviews.

Earlier this week an RTÉ spokesperson said station policy “cannot and will not allow product placement ... and this applies to all sports whether it be hurling, football, soccer or rugby”.

Yesterday the GPA said RTÉ’s reaction was “lamentable”, pointing to the “cooperation the national broadcaster has enjoyed from those players who deliver audiences of many millions to their benefit each year”.

“These massive audiences equate to enormous advertising income around games for RTÉ, rights fees of many millions for the GAA, but no recognition for the player.”

The GPA statement pointed out that Cork star Brian Corcoran had waited 40 minutes in the aftermath of Cork’s 1999 All-Ireland win to accommodate RTÉ, while after last Sunday’s win over Waterford, “he made himself available for two interviews with RTÉ only to be told what he could and could not consume”.

The GPA also said when RTÉ interviewed Martin Johnson and Lewis Moody after the recent Leicester and Leinster Heineken Cup game, in contrast with the experience of Corcoran and other GAA players, “and in spite of the supposedly ‘existing policy’ regarding product placement”, both players were “accommodated and unhindered in their subtle promotion” of a sports drink.

The GPA is in talks with RTÉ on the issue and anticipates clarification shortly, but in the interim the players’ body will consult players and monitor developments before giving an official response on the matter.

The GPA has pointed out that Club Energise will contribute in excess of €10 million to the direct benefit of players throughout the initial 10-year term of the agreement with the GPA, and that since the product launched in August 2003, both the GPA and 125 individual players have benefited, through a collective licence fee, scholarships, benevolent fund contributions, promotional and advertising work.

The players’ body also pointed out that Rule 4 in the GAA rule book states: “The Association shall support Irish industry”, and the organisation claims “the banning of Energise Sport by the GAA’s commercial department is a clear indication that the very ethos of the GAA is being eroded”.

Last night RTÉ Television issued a statement saying their programmes are bound by national and EU law, both of which prohibit surreptitious advertising, and where intended breaches are brought to the station’s attention, “RTÉ Television has no choice but to implement the guidelines under which it must operate ... a few isolated incidents of this type of advertising have occurred across a very small number of broadcasts”.

The statement also acknowledged the cooperation of players and personnel with sports programming.

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