Sky deal will do ‘irreparable damage’

Former GAA PRO Danny Lynch claims the Sky media rights deal will do “irreparable damage” to the organisation.

Sky deal will do ‘irreparable damage’

He believes the trust between Croke Park and the smaller units of the association has been broken by the agreement, which will provide Sky Sports with 14 exclusive Championship games for each of the next three seasons.

Lynch’s comments come as Wexford chairman Diarmuid Devereux and Limerick vice-chairman Pat Heffernan both condemned GAA authorities for not consulting with counties before they signed off on the deal.

In his 20 years working in Croke Park up until 2008, Lynch took a leading role in TV rights negotiations. He was also part of the group including RTÉ officials who lobbied the provincial councils to make some of their games available to broadcast live in 1995. Prior to that, only the All-Ireland semi-finals and finals were shown live on television.

Lynch admits he thought stories of a GAA deal with Sky were “fliers on bad news days” and was shocked when it was confirmed on Tuesday.

“In my time, the concept of pay-per-view for Championship games would have been dismissed by all of us involved out of hand for the obvious reasons that are emerging now.”

He can’t fathom why the GAA’s management committee would discommode a proportion of their supporters who don’t have Sky Sports.

“The GAA is an organisation that is heavily involved in the Martin McAleese social inclusion initiative,” said Lynch, “and I don’t understand this volte face when they’re now talking about is exclusion albeit they’re still showing a hell of an amount of games and more than they were before.

“But it’s the principle and the perception that are what’s at stake and the connection with their constituency. This will do irreparable damage with their constituency even if it’s only 25% of it.

“The connection between Croke Park and the rest of the GAA was based on trust and them being part of the decision-making process.

“It surprised me the general body of counties, that is the Central Council and Congress, weren’t the people who made this decision. This was a fundamental policy decision and more so than other decisions that they have to make like the technicalities of rules.”

Lynch is suspicious about the impact the Sky agreement could have on inter-county players’ demands and the appreciation GAA chiefs had for their members in making the decision.

“I’m very sceptical of it and would be vehemently opposed to it had I been in there.

“Maybe I’d be considered conservative and backward but I think the GAA has always thrived because it looked before it leaped.

“The president and Central Council were never too far ahead of their troops on their white charger but here, if truth is known, they have been, and I think the fallout is yet to come.

“I think a lot of people will be disillusioned for a lot longer than what is currently being thought.”

Lynch doesn’t buy the GAA’s worldwide profile strategy either.

He was in New York last week for a funeral where he was told people have sufficient access to games “for a small subscription through a computer”.

He added: “I detect no clamour in Australia for it either. It strikes me as incongruous.”

Meanwhile, Mark Conway, founder of the Of One Belief group which rallied against commercialism in the GAA, said it’s “arrogant” of the organisation to think they can spread gaelic games worldwide.

“This is just another step on the road that was taken five or six years ago,” he said. “I’m not a believer in the internationalisation of Gaelic games. The GAA was founded as a reaction to imperialism and colonialism and now to say the rest of the world should embrace gaelic games is arrogant.

“As a response to the Anglicisation of Ireland, are we now trying to ‘Gaelicise’ the world?

“I think that’s just a smokescreen. It’s all about money. Every other sport in the world has gone down this road and it’s made some people very wealthy.

“Now it’s happening to us. Journalists are asking me, a GAA member and club chairman, my opinion but why didn’t the GAA?”

Wexford chairman Devereux also criticised the deal, questioning why county boards weren’t consulted.

He told club delegates at a board meeting on Tuesday night: “Last week I was asked to call a county board meeting to discuss the Football Review Committee Report yet this issue (Sky Deal) was not mentioned.

“The role of the county board is further diminished as we move further and further into a centralised system of control.”

Devereux also said Sky Sports should grant “as a minimum” free subscriptions to all clubs for collective viewing of their scheduled games. Wexford agreed to send a letter complaint to Croke Park.

Limerick vice chairman Pat Heffernan also questioned the lack of engagement with counties.

“There was no word about it at Congress – and I was there. I think it’s wrong, depriving people from watching that are supporting GAA clubs and going to matches all year round.”

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