O’Neill also warns RTÉ are “liable to be embarrassed” by the quality of the British company’s resources.
The former commercial director of the GPA, who always maintained pay for play was inevitable in inter-county GAA, also reiterated his belief that players should be rewarded by such lucrative agreements.
“Sky are going to bring additional value to the GAA’s entire commercial stock and while the sponsorship deals might not be happening now, they will increase in value because of Sky,” said the former IMG sales and marketing manager.
“It’s a knock-on effect and really we shouldn’t be talking about just media rights for the GAA but commercial income. My feelings about inter-county players has never changed — they shouldn’t be expected to watch the ship passing by. What I hoped we would achieve during my time was to be see the rewards because any players’ organisation without a finger in the pie in world sport is irrelevant.
“Professionalism is a Trojan sport in Gaelic games. It’s slowly coming but most very surely.”
Although no figures have been mentioned concerning Sky’s deal, O’Neill described it as a “neat bit of work” for the GAA: “Whoever advised them has done very well.”
He believes their scope for the promotion of the games could easily put RTÉ in the shadow, as much as some supporters will be discommoded.
“Fans haven’t been able to see games before. I remember an All-Ireland final which couldn’t be seen in Tyrone, so that shouldn’t come as any surprise.
“But this introduction of Sky changes the future landscape dramatically. They have a fantastic business model and are brilliant at what they do. Their coverage is liable to embarrass RTÉ if they get this right, which they probably will.”
Reacting to their failure to pick up a rights package, TV3 launched a thinly-veiled dig at GAA. The station’s director of broadcasting Niall Cogley said: “TV3 has been proud to broadcast the GAA Championship free to viewers throughout the country over the past six years. TV3 made a very commercial bid for the next three years but this appears to have been superseded by the GAA’s preference for a pay television strategy.”
As they will share RTÉ’s coverage of the Ulster championship as well as striking a new radio deal, BBC Northern Ireland’s statement wasn’t as hard-hitting. However, it read: “While we would have liked to be able to provide more live coverage for our audience, we are pleased to have been able to secure live television coverage, within the constraints of what was available to us, of games in the Ulster Championship on BBC NI over the next three years.”
Speaking on RTÉ prior to the announcement, former GAA president Sean Kelly expressed some concern about serious business being done with a foreign company.
“I can see where the GAA are coming from. They have a product that they want to get the best commercial value. But I’d be a small bit worried about the implications for the GAA because it is an organisation based locally. It supports local industry, it supports Irish industry. It supports everything to do with Irish games and culture, and I think this might be just a step too quick and too fast.
“I’m just wondering about the implications for people who do not want to subscribe to Sky or cannot afford it. Older people, families and so forth.
“Now they cannot see it live on TV without subscribing to Sky. I’d be just concerned we might upset a lot of supporters.”
* The inclusion of Patrick Kelly at centre-back is the most notable selection in the Cork team to face Kerry in the final round of the Allianz FL Division 1 at Tralee on Sunday (3pm).
Kelly, not long recovered from a hip injury, makes his first start of 2014, having played in defence coming off the bench against Derry and Tyrone. Alongside him, Damien Cahalane is picked at wing-back for his first football start of the year. Ken O’Halloran, Jamie O’Sullivan, Colm O’Driscoll and Barry O’Driscoll are the other changes from the Tyrone game.
CORK (NFL v Kerry): K O’Halloran (Bishopstown); M Shields (Barr’s), J O’Sullivan (Bishopstown), Tom Clancy (Clonakilty); J Loughrey (Mallow), P Kelly (B’collig), D Cahalane (Castlehaven); F Goold (Macroom), A O’Sullivan (Castletownbere); C O’Driscoll (T Mac Cárthaigh), M Collins (Castlehaven), J O’Rourke (Carbery Rangers); B O’Driscoll (Nemo), B Hurley (Castlehaven), J Hayes (Carbery Rangers). Subs: D Hanrahan (Douglas), A Cronin (Nem), J McLoughlin (Kanturk), K O’Driscoll (T Mac Cárthaigh), Tomás Clancy (Fermoy), R O’Sullivan (Argideen Rangers), M Ó Laoire (Naomh Abán), D Goulding (Éire Óg), P Kerrigan (Nemo), D O’Connor (B’desmond), C O’Neill (Ballyclough).
The GAA’s first appearance on the famous Sky Sports News ticker didn’t go as smoothly as hoped.
When the TV rights package was announced by the two afternoon presenters and the details scrolled across the screen the report wasn’t without a hiccup or two. Although it was corrected in later bulletins, Mayo were announced as All-Ireland football champions despite Dublin having been mentioned as the winners just seconds earlier. All-Ireland hurling champions Clare were also referred to as playing in yellow jerseys as footage of their replay win over Cork was shown.