League coverage suffers as RTÉ cuts hit hard

RTÉ last night admitted the “current financial climate” is impacting on its highlights coverage of the Allianz Leagues.

GAA fans took to Twitter yesterday to slam the content of the station’s League Sunday programme at the weekend with many expressing surprise the clash of All-Ireland finalists Kerry and All-Ireland semi-finalists Donegal, along with the meeting of Mayo and Down, failed to make the cut on the show.

The show featured highlights from four games, all of which had been carried live by Setanta and TG4, companies which have live TV broadcast rights to the Allianz Leagues.

RTÉ only has the option of showing highlights from the competitions. It also featured packages on Loughgiel Shamrocks and Garrycastle along with a live link from Coolderry ahead of the All-Ireland Club finals on St Patrick’s Day.

In a statement last night, an RTÉ spokesperson admitted the “current financial climate” is a factor in their coverage plans.

“This weekend saw a host of GAA league fixtures, with 10 matches alone in Division 1 hurling and football leagues.

“In the current financial climate RTÉ is unable to send a camera to every game for our highlights programme League Sunday.

“In addition, the Kerry v Donegal match was not covered by the live rights holder so we did not have access to existing footage.

“Live updates from Kerry v Donegal did feature across RTÉ Radio 1’s Sunday Sport programme and RTE.ie.”

Experts admit that the cost of a single game requiring outside broadcast facilities, satellite feeds and production staff could run close to €20,000. They also point out RTÉ’s primary focus is on the All-Ireland senior championships, with the station committed to broadcasting 31 games in the competitions this year.

There is additional pressure on RTÉ’s sports department this year given the costs incurred in broadcasting the Olympic and Paralympic Games from London along with the Euro 2012 tournament in Poland and the Ukraine, along with the European Athletics Championships from Helsinki.

Earlier this year, RTÉ axed their live coverage of Basketball Ireland’s National Cup finals, a decision which led to angry words from the sport’s chief executive, Bernard O’Byrne. “You may have your own idea how to describe this decision — disgraceful, short-sighted, discriminatory and insulting are phrases that have been suggested to me. I’d find it hard to disagree with any of those,” said O’Byrne at the time.

This month RTÉ’s Four Live and The Daily Show have been taken off the air due to budget cuts while the station is undertaking a massive cost-cutting to ease its budget deficit.

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