The live streaming of Limerick county championship fixtures later this year will be behind a paywall.
Limerick County Board chairman John Cregan said the executive explored in recent weeks the concept of live streaming and it has been decided games shown online will be pay-per-view.
It is hoped the small subscription fee will mitigate against the significant reduction in gate receipts forecast for 2020.
Cregan suspects the opening rounds of the county championship may take place behind closed doors, which would further hit Limerick coffers. Their gate receipts total for 2019 - €713k - was the third highest in the country.
The 11-week window (July 31-October 11) handed down by Croke Park means the Limerick senior championships will be much condensed from their usual formats. Under the new format sent to clubs last week for consideration, the minimum number of games each senior team would be afforded - three - is almost half the comparative figure from recent seasons. If approved, the new-look Limerick SHC and SFC can each be run off across five weekends, three less than the 2019 editions.
“We have asked for expressions of interest over the last few weeks with regard to live streaming and we have received a number of expressions of interest to live stream our games. We will certainly be taking up that option,” Cregan told the Irish Examiner.
“The last couple of years, we had started to do that. Certainly, this year it will be more important than ever because if some spectators or supporters can't go to a match because it is behind closed doors, they can at least follow their club's progress online.
“We'd have to be charging a small fee. That in itself may not make it economically viable, but we'd have to help ourselves in every way because our income streams have been completely diminished.
“We would be hugely dependent on an annual basis on income from our club championships and obviously that is gone, so we would have to apply a paywall.” He added: “Perhaps the earlier stages of our club championships will be played behind closed doors, that is just a feeling I have myself. Then, maybe, as you progress through the year and things continue to improve, you will have a situation where some spectators are coming into your games but with social distancing still applying.” The format which is the frontrunner to come into effect later this summer would see the Limerick SFC split into four groups of three, the top two in each progressing to the quarter-finals.
The Limerick SHC would also comprise four groups of three, but while still holding onto the graded element that was part of recent seasons whereby the six clubs in the top half of the draw fight it out for four knockout places (two semi-final and two quarter-final spots). The six teams in the bottom half of the draw would battle for the remaining two quarter-final berths.
“What we need to do now is get agreement from our clubs on the format, make our draws, and what you are doing then is bringing an amount of certainty to the whole thing. We hope to bring a proposal to next week’s county committee meeting.” In Clare, the format of their senior hurling and football championships will be redrawn, county board chairman Joe Cooney has revealed.
Last year’s Clare SHC format afforded the eight teams beaten in round one a second chance, as well as the first-round winners who came up short against a fellow first-round winner in round two. The Clare SFC comprises 13 teams spread across four groups.
Although nothing has been agreed, it may well be a case that both competitions revert to straight knockout for this season.
Clare county championship games will be streamed live, Cooney confirmed. Whether or not to put those games behind a paywall will be discussed at an executive meeting later this week.
“The championship structures we have had for the last couple of years, our belief is we will not be able to fit them into the limited amount of time we have, so we will have to look at a new structure,” said the Clare chairman.
“That will be done in conjunction with the fixtures committee, the officers, and the clubs. It is at an early stage, but we are working on it and we will be talking to all bodies involved over the next number of days.” Tipperary County Board is unlikely to bring forward any concrete plans as to how their competitions will look until after Croke Park announces the start date for the All-Ireland football and hurling championship.
Fixture-makers in the Premier County want to know if October 17 will be the throw-in date for the various provincial championships or the closing rounds of the National League. The Tipperary hurlers have already exited the league, but their footballers are fighting for survival in Division 3. If the league is wrapped up before the championship begins, this may influence how Tipperary map out their county championship program in the weeks approaching October 17.
Galway hurling captain Padraic Mannion is another who would like Croke Park to publish a master-fixture schedule sooner rather than later. The two-time All-Star says it is important players know what sort of format they will be playing and when.
“You’d be hoping that they come out with something in the next couple of weeks,” Mannion remarked.
County Board officials in Louth, meanwhile, see no need for a redrawing of their championship structures and so the format of the Louth SFC will be unchanged from recent years. It’s a privileged position to be in given most county boards are currently locked in a process of attempting to magic up new formats that will fit into the allotted 11-week window. The Louth SFC is a 12-team competition divided into four groups of three.