Former GAA President Sean Kelly has called on the organisation to make games available on free-to-air television abroad, especially in the USA.
Speaking to Helen Ní Shé on RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta’s An Saol Ó Dheas, the current MEP said that the Irish community abroad, and in the USA in particular, are having difficulty watching matches under the current broadcast arrangements.
‘I was in America during the summer and I had to go to the pub early in the morning to watch the All-Ireland semi-finals. It surprised me how few people were there. I was talking to one bar owner and he said he would not be renewing his subscription to show GAA games next year.
‘I think it is time for the GAA, maybe in conjunction with a body like Tourism Ireland, to review the policy to give more people a chance to watch the games.’
‘I think this is especially relevant in the US and Britain, where the GAA have started underage competitions. There was a big competition in the US this year with over 3,000 children taking part, and these children never get to see a GAA match outside of those that they play in themselves.
‘We should give these children the chance to watch the big championship matches. It is not allowed, or suitable, for children to go to the pub to watch matches. People abroad should be able to watch GAA matches on their own televisions at home.
‘Outside of the Irish community there are also over 40 million people in the US who have a connection with Ireland, but the vast majority of these people have no idea about our culture. If the games were available in their homes there is a chance they would watch them and perhaps even travel to Ireland as a result to see a game and see the country.
‘There is a huge market out there that we have not tapped into so far, and I think this is a great way of strengthening the link between Ireland and people in America, and other countries as well.
‘We need to entice tourists to Ireland, especially in current economic circumstances. We need to create and sustain jobs and I think this would do some good and it’s worth a try.
‘I think the GAA will have to look at this. Numbers going to the pubs to watch games are falling and pub owners are not renewing subscriptions. If this continues a new way has to be found to show the matches and I believe making them available on free-to-air television is a proposal that the GAA will look favourably on because they will benefit from the increased exposure.’