GAA/Sky: Armchair viewers can always get off their backsides and go to a match

Nice piece from Paddy Heaney on the GAA/Sky deal in the Irish News today (£)…

For the continued promotion of gaelic games, it remains extremely important that matches are aired on free-to-air television.

But let’s consider the amount of fixtures which are available on RTE and TG4. Under the new deal, RTE will show 31 Championship games. TG4 will show 62 live and 22 deferred games. That’s 93 live games.

Now, let’s examine the identity of your stereotypical armchair viewer.

John Keenan’s native county Derry represents an excellent case-study. The county has a population of roughly 250,000. Sunday’s home game against Kildare attracted a crowd of 2,429. That’s equates to less than one per cent of the population.

Using this formula, Dublin don’t fare much better. Saturday night’s attendance of approximately 22,000 in Croke Park might sound good. But Dublin is a city of nearly 1.5 million. That crowd represents about two per cent of the population.

The bottom line is the vast majority of television viewers never darken the turnstile of a GAA ground. They don’t pay into county games. They don’t support their clubs. They don’t pay club memberships. They contribute nothing.

Why are these people automatically entitled to watch every GAA game free-of-charge? Where is it written that all gaelic football and hurling matches must be broadcast on terrestrial channels?

  • Dec

    ‘The bottom line is the vast majority of television viewers…contribute nothing’

    While I do have little sympathy for those who cry foul when absolutely everything isn’t available on drip in their living room, Heaney might be better advised to count up the amount of state funding the GAA has amassed over recent years before lecturing taxpayers about contributing ‘nothing’.

  • zep

    Good point Dec, I would also say that certain things are deemed culturally important and should, wherever possible, be available free-to-air as they are in a sense ‘bigger’ than the event itself. I don’t know if GAA falls into this camp or not but you could argue the case.

  • Tochais Síoraí

    Spot on, Paddy.

    Dec, on the whole the GAA and other sporting organisations well deserve the taxpayers money that they’ve got (altho it might be better if more was spent at local level rather than building big stadia). In fact if more was spent on sport and especially sport for young people, our doctor’s surgeries and hospitals mightn’t so full of unhealthy adults who do no exercise, eat crap and keep Big Tobacco in business.

  • Paulk

    I was one of those who when i heard about it wasn’t completely against it (i’m still not) I think ex pats could always hunt out the odd bar showing matches when they weren’t home (me being one at one time!). My main hope for this deal with it being on Sky is that it’ll get new viewers/players without an Irish/GAA connection, i know Sky will probably use it as filler, before a soccer or rugby match but as a product i think gaelic football and particularly hurling is as good as they come, so hopefully it’ll help raise the profile from that point of view, fresh blood is never a bad thing. Another hope was that any money made from the deal would equate to a drop in the ticket prices…some chance i know! but there is nothing more depressing than playing in a half empty stadium and on TV it looks terrible i’d hope the powers that be would keep that in mind.

  • zep

    Tochais Síoraí, that’s the danger isn’t it, that the GAA will end up moving too quickly away from the grassroots organisation that is IMO its major strength. You don’t want to end up jumping through too many hoops to please TV, sponsors etc with an amateur game.

  • JR

    I think this is a further departure from the founding ethos of the GAA and a further commercialization and professionalization of what is proudly the largest amateur sporting organization in the world.

    I would say my attendance to television viewing of matches would be 50:50. A few years ago I would have gone to all Downs inter county league and championship matches along with some of Armagh’s. Due to young children this is no longer possible and I like to have the option of watching matches on tv.

    I am uneasy with a big company like sky profiteering on the sweat of amateurs and volunteers.

  • babyface finlayson

    “I am uneasy with a big company like sky profiteering on the sweat of amateurs and volunteers”
    Indeed. It can’t be good for the GAA to be getting into bed with Rupert Murdoch that close friend of Thatcher.
    Or is Sky now so all pervasive that no-one can raise a grunt of dissent anymore, not even good Marxists like SF?

  • Charles_Gould

    ““I am uneasy with a big company like sky profiteering on the sweat of amateurs and volunteers”

    Which suggests that not-for-profit RTE and BBC are the people to deal with.

  • Mc Slaggart


    ” not-for-profit RTE and BBC ”

    in the year to 31 March 2012 it (BBC) made a profit of £125m