O’Neill: Sky deal good for GAA

GAA president Liam O’Neill has defended their contract agreement with Sky Sports, despite a motion from Clare to Congress to make all broadcasted Championship games available on terrestrial TV.

O’Neill: Sky deal good for GAA

Three clubs, Clonlara, Eire Óg and Scariff, have succeeded in putting forward a proposal to Congress in Cavan on February 28 next calling for the matches to be made “free-to-air” following the conclusion of the current media right packages at the end of 2016.

It is the wish of the three clubs that neither Sky Sports nor any subscription channel be afforded the opportunity to show games exclusively during the summer from 2017 on.

However, O’Neill maintains the agreement with Sky Sports has benefited the promotion of Gaelic games in the UK and believes Clare are in a minority.

“People call this a Sky deal — it’s not a Sky deal. It should be called the GAAGo deal. That’s the main component of it and GAAGo has expanded. The motion as it is worded would need to be careful that it doesn’t affect what’s positive in the entire broadcast deal.

“The fact of the matter is on balance once the initial hysteria died down people recognised that the Sky component of our media rights deal has worked really spectacularly for the organisation. I think people have to accept that. Naturally, there will be the odd bit of reaction to it and the example has come from Clare. We’ll deal with that motion and let’s see where it goes.”

Donegal are one county who will be backing Clare. In his annual report, county secretary Aodh Mairtín Ó Fearraigh recalled they had initially supported the GAA’s plans to negotiate with subscription channels but later changed their mind.

“Handing our national sporting events over to international media organisations was seen as a bad move and delegates at the April meeting of Coiste na Condae agreed to inform GAA authorities in Croke Park of their dissatisfaction. While it is a welcome development that we now have a global audience for our games, this should not be at the expense of our home audiences and grassroot members.”

O’Neill welcomed the decision by the Munster and Leinster Councils to trial the one-on-one penalty in their pre-season senior hurling competitions next month.

“The more we get to do things like this the more we can see how it works out. I’m delighted we’re getting a chance to do it and I think it’s going to bring a level of excitement to penalty-taking. Every penalty now is going to be a serious incident in a game and that’s great, that’s what penalties should be.

“We have safety covered. We’ll never go back to the situation of young players in front of penalties taken from less than 20 metres. That was our concern all along but it was very hard to get that message across.

“Remember, Dónal Óg (Cusack) was the first person to say he wanted it one-on-one as a goalie and that was a big breakthrough. He said he would enjoy stopping a penalty one-on-one. Goalkeepers like to show their skill too.”

O’Neill appreciates there may be a by-product of the rule such as goalkeepers using bigger bas hurleys to help them stop shots. “Once you make a rule, it doesn’t matter what sport it is, somebody will push the boundaries. It’s up to us to keep up with. You can’t cover everything the first day but what you have to be is reactive as well as proactive.”

O’Neill expressed his satisfaction in director general Páraic Duffy agreeing to remain in office past January 31 next when his current seven-year agreement ends.

“It gives stability to us. We know where we’re going, he knows where he’s going. He’s doing a fantastic job, he works from dawn ’til dusk.

“I think Páraic and I have defined the roles of CEO and president. I think we know from now on what each role entails. My agreement with Páraic is that anything that stretches beyond three years is his business such as negotiations with public bodies etc. Anything that goes beyond my time.

“The leadership role of the president is now defined, he’s front of house and that leaves the CEO the chance to do his work. We have had a clear understanding and we agreed that from day one that this was how it was going to be. The ambassadorial role of the uachtarán is such that I have slept only eight nights in my own house since the All-Ireland (football) final. Being out on the road is key for a president but it would be bad use of Páraic’s time.

“People like to meet the president. I was down in Shanballymore in Cork last Monday night and it was a full house of people. It’s unbelievable what it means that a person in this position goes out and meets people. There’s been a fantastic reaction in the organisation to the news of Páraic remaining on and I think there will be too outside because they know the GAA know where they’re going.”

On the issue of the delayed Tipperary senior football championship, O’Neill maintained it was an exception to the rule. Proposals on finishing the GAA season in the calendar year will be put to Central Council next month.

“We’ll be setting out a date for the end of the provincial club competitions and that will in turn set the date for the end of the county competitions. There will be a need for real discipline. If people don’t finish their competitions they won’t be playing in the next stage. It’s as simple as that.

“I reject the notion it will put clubs out of their competitions early in the year. It’s up to counties now to structure their competitions so that a player can have a league section earlier in the year and a championship one from summer on and there’s plenty of time for that.”

* O’Neill was speaking in Dublin Airport yesterday where ConnectIreland teamed up with Dublin Airport Authority and the GAA to welcome home players from Tipperary club Gortnahoe Glengoole, and encourage more Irish people at home and abroad to reach out to companies and encourage them to locate in Ireland and create jobs.

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