Making GAA available abroad a 'necessary priority'

Tuesday 15 April 2014 20.50
GAA Director General Páraic Duffy and GAA President Liam O'Neill faced questions over the latest television deal
GAA Director General Páraic Duffy and GAA President Liam O'Neill faced questions over the latest television deal

GAA President Liam O'Neill and GAA Director General Páraic Duffy have told the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport and Communications that the need to make games available to Irish people living abroad was a "necessary priority recognised by all at Croke Park".

They had been invited to discuss the GAA's recent deal with Sky Sports, which was announced two weeks ago.

The deal gives the broadcaster exclusive rights to 14 matches in the All-Ireland senior football and hurling championships.

Speaking at the committee, Duffy said accessibility to games was the biggest issue raised by members living outside of Ireland.

He said: "At the top of the list, receiving a necessary priority recognised by all of us in Croke Park, was the need to make our games available to Irish people living abroad.

"This issue of accessibility to our games on live TV has been, over recent years, by far the single biggest issue raised with us when we spoke with our members outside Ireland.

"This issue of accessibility to our games on live TV has been, over recent years, by far the single biggest issue raised with us when we spoke with our members outside Ireland" - Páraic Duffy

"In planning our negotiations of these new contracts, the GAA felt that it had an obligation to Irish people living abroad to respond to their appeals on this issue, if for no other reason than the fact that many of them, while living at home, had contributed to the GAA as members, and were now continuing that work in GAA clubs abroad."

Both men faced several questions about the deal from members of the committee.

Mr Duffy denied that the Sky deal was about money.

He said: "Due to the unfortunate return of Irish emigration, and due also to the presence abroad of Irish people from previous phases of emigration, it is no longer tenable for the GAA to see the Irish audience for Gaelic Games as simply being Irish people living in Ireland.

"There are now so many Irish people living abroad, so many Irish people who are GAA supporters and who want to see our games live on TV, that we simply must take them into consideration in negotiating broadcast contracts" - Páraic Duffy

"There are now so many Irish people living abroad, so many Irish people who are GAA supporters and who want to see our games live on TV, that we simply must take them into consideration in negotiating broadcast contracts.

"There has been a cynical reaction by some to the announcement of the new contracts.

"But cynicism has always been the easy refuge of those who are afraid to engage in analysis and reasonable debate. The cynical claim would have it that 'the GAA went to Sky for the money'.

"Not only is this not true, but it also conveniently avoids noticing the recent announcement of a major investment by the GAA in redeveloping London's Ruislip grounds, a project also made possible by financial support from the Department of Foreign Affairs."

He said that it would seem, listening to the debate since the announcement was made, that nobody in Ireland has access to Sky Sports.

Mr Duffy said 1.1 million households have access to Sky.

He also said the GAA met the BBC, but that it did not offer incentives to the BBC to show games.

Mr O'Neill said the GAA is not now limited by previous deals to re-transmit games through Premium Sports.

He said the GAA has more options and the availability of games on smart devices means that a family does not have to go to the pub and pay to watch games.