It’s time for the GAA top brass to explain the steamy deal…they have nothing to apologize for

Last year, for example, media rights brought in €15.3 million to the GAA, compared to €6.2 million from sponsorships.

All hell broke loose on the minds of the GAA and RTÉ after Donal Óg Cusack fired his Exocet verbal missile at various targets during Sunday’s game.

It is worth examining how we got to this point.

In the past 18 months, the GAA has made two decisions that have, albeit unwittingly, caused controversy.

First, the decision was made to have a split season, which meant that all inter-county competitions had to be completed by the end of July. A new, extended format for the All Ireland football series was also introduced.

There were 60 games in the 2022 All Ireland Football series. This year there will be 99, with just one extra week allotted for the additional 39 games. Between the next weekend and the 17./18. June sees the Sam Maguire series go 24 games only to knock out four counties.

The Tailteann Cup is conducted in the same format. However, aside from the semi-finals and final, the matches of the second competition would likely never be broadcast on free-to-air television.

It doesn’t take a degree in logistics to understand that accommodating so many additional games in such a limited timeframe would be a headache, not least for the media organizations that are expected to cover it.

The GAA experienced the latest leg of a treble last autumn when Sky Television, which had broken the taboo on pay-per-view games in the All-Ireland Championship eight years earlier, exited the market.

Donal Óg Cusack was critical of RTÉ during Sunday’s game. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile — © SPORTSFILE

His departure was a huge headache for the GAA. Even with the best will in the world, only a fraction of the All Ireland Advanced Championship matches could be broadcast live on terrestrial television.

The GAAGO model was originally introduced to provide overseas GAA fans with access to live television coverage of the championship. It expanded its remit during Covid-19 when spectators were banned from attending matches.

Under the new TV rights deal announced last October, RTÉ and BBC Northern Ireland had access to 31 live league matches. Another 38 would be shown on GAAGO, a pay-per-view streaming service accessible over WiFi.

When this was announced, it was likely that neither politicians nor Lifeline believers had looked at it, although the print media had highlighted the possibility of a backlash.

The GAA then experienced two unfortunate breaks.

The hurling championship match between Limerick and Clare Munster was to be broadcast free to air.

However, the game was moved to Saturday night to avoid a collision with the Great Limerick Run, whose route was via the Gaelic Grounds.

Thus the flame of outrage was ignited and the explosive conclusion to the Cork v Tipperary game was like pouring gasoline on a fire.

It was completely overlooked that the first hour of the game was nothing special and last year’s corresponding game was a memorable one-sided affair.

GAA President Larry McCarthy did not address the recent controversy over the launch of the Tailteann Cup. Photo: Ben McShane/Sportsfile — © SPORTSFILE

The bottom line is that it is neither practical nor financially feasible to broadcast every championship freely on terrestrial television.

It’s a shame GAA executives haven’t explained how important revenue from TV deals is to the GAA.

Last year, for example, media rights brought in €15.3 million to the GAA, compared to €6.2 million from sponsorships.

There is a delicious irony in the fact that the match that generated so much controversy took place in Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

In 2020, the Central Council of the GAA had to provide a €10 million loan to complete the stadium’s redevelopment.

The GAA executive team’s response to the controversy has been puzzling.

Admittedly, the head of GAAGO Noel Quinn, who was appointed just the previous week, was brought out on Monday to answer questions from print journalists.

GAA President Larry McCarthy attended the opening of the Tailteann Cup that same day but did not comment on the matter.

Surely McCarthy or either general manager Tom Ryan or commercial director Peter McKenna should have come out and explained the rationale behind the deal. They had nothing to apologize for.

As Croke Park executives lick their wounds after a busy week, they may ponder the words of Oscar Wilde:

“There’s only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that’s not talking about it.”

However, one might suspect that they would not agree with him. It’s time for the GAA top brass to explain the steamy deal…they have nothing to apologize for

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