Discontent about the exclusive elements of the GAA’s broadcasting agreement with Sky Sports continues to surface but the debate about it ended at last year’s Congress as far as president Aogán Farrell is concerned.
Michael Duignan’s comments on The Sunday Game the weekend before last struck a chord with several supporters and has reignited a conversation about the organisation’s relationship with the pay-per-view company.
Counties such as Clare and Dublin have voiced their fears about live championship games not being available free-to-air, but Farrell is adamant the time for taking has come and gone since Congress delegates shot down a Dublin motion last year.
“We don’t get any criticism from counties or clubs,” said Farrell at this year’s All-Ireland SFC series launch in Tyrone.
“Do we want to go back to the day, which the GAA used to do, to pay a media provider to cover our games? Those days are all over so there is no debate. There were 30 votes at Congress against the media rights deal. The debate is over.”
Of the remaining 11 games in the All-Ireland SFC, six will be shown exclusively by Sky Sports (the remaining four qualifiers and the quarter-finals involving Dublin and Tyrone), while they and RTÉ will simulcast the other three, the All-Ireland semi-finals and finals.
Farrell understands people will always have contrasting views on the GAA because it so embedded in Irish life.
“I met with the other Irish sporting bodies six weeks ago and they all said the same thing to me. They said that they wished they were as relevant to Irish society as we were. That is just the reality; people will always have a view on the GAA. We have 750,000 members and we have probably 2 million who are interested so that is basically half the population. I like debate; it is good as long as it is never nasty.”
Without quoting figures or percentages, Farrell said Croke Park have been fully briefed on the overrun in the original budget to reconstruct Páirc Uí Chaoimh. “We are very aware. It is one of our main flagship programmes. There has been an over-run. It is within what guys in that area would say is expected on a project of that size. It is nothing that is perturbing anyone and it is manageable.”
He can also foresee the new 45,000-capacity stadium holding an All-Ireland semi-final. “I have always felt that teams should be moving around the country a bit more and that way they would get a feel for different pitches. Páirc Uí Chaoimh could well stage a semi-final.”
On the matter of Pete McGrath departing his role as Fermanagh manager due to player power, Farrell said he felt sorry for the two-time All-Ireland winning boss. “I am always disappointed when things like that happen. We are a voluntary organisation and there is a right for a player and for a manager to be there or not to be there, but I do feel for Pete on a personal level.”
The GAA and GPA signed up to a resolution mechanism but in this situation it clearly didn’t work. “The process has to work at a local level,” said Farrell. “It works in most cases and sometimes it breaks down.”
He rejected the theory that the heave against McGrath illustrated the influence of the GPA: “Young players are more educated than maybe players were in the past, they are more articulate so there are always going to be rumblings. I don’t think it is GPA led at all. It is simply a reflection of where we are at.
“I don’t think it is driven from outside at all, in most cases these are dynamics which occur within dressing rooms.”
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