Sky Sports GAA Saga
THE backbone of Irish communities, throughout trying times, has always been the GAA. It is one of the few national organisations to have withstood the recession, probably due to its ethos that we are all too familiar with – community, inclusiveness and social cohesion to name but a few. In other words, it is the hundreds of towns and villages across Ireland that essentially runs the GAA, who have built it to become the force that it is today through hard work, volunteering time and money and infusing this passion into every new generation that comes along. It is a massive part of our education system, with schools including football and hurling in their weekly activities. It is also a big part of rural Ireland, with older generations relishing the weekend games in summer. It provides a social medium for them, giving them something to look forward to and something to provide them with a sense of inclusion in an otherwise isolated environment.
With this in mind, it is difficult to conjure up any reasonable explanation for the exclusive 14 games being awarded to Sky Sports as a pay-per-view deal. The Sky Sport’s governing body, or Murdoch Empire as it has been referred to, stands in stark contrast to the GAA. Their ethos is quite distasteful in comparison to that of our national games association, focusing on capitalism, globalisation and frankly, making money. Nowhere is this more prevalent than The Sun newspaper and its appalling work over the past few decades, both political and in sports. Even more alarming for the reputation and sustainability of the GAA is the daft decision to appoint Ian Wright, ex-Arsenal and England soccer player as the GAA correspondent for The Sun. Was it only a matter of time before we had to bow out to these global giants of television and media?
The move to Sky Sports will certainly help to promote gaelic games in the UK and given that our very own and extremely capable Rachel Wyse will be spearheading the presenting of these games, one would hope its reputation is in safe and professional hands. One would also hope that the British presenters undertake a little more research and practice in pronunciation to eradicate the unnecessary blushing and cringing at mispronounced names of counties and players.
I’m sure GAA fans would have applauded the idea of Sky Sports broadcasting our games, especially given the growing Irish emigrant population in the UK. However, to do this at our own expense is neither right nor fair. The Irish public no longer have free-to-view access to their own games. Yet, if you’re living in Australia you have free access to all GAA games on free-to-air Channel 7. This situation is nonsensical. What we have built and sustained is now being taken from our hands and placed in those of the Murdoch empire. The problem is not the idea of sharing our games with this leading sports television network. The problem is that we are not sharing. It is being taken from our own country and given elsewhere. In what is appearing to be a money-making scheme, the GAA have pushed aside TV3 in favour of the giants across the pond. The reality is that the negotiations appear to have been on Sky’s terms, with Liam O’ Neill and Donal Og Cusack, amongst others, nodding in agreement with this British broadcasting empire.
In attempting to justify this deal, Liam was quick to outline the reasons behind it, “Making our games more widely available to Irish people abroad was a critical factor in our approach to these negotiations. We felt an obligation to them not to neglect their legitimate appeals to be able to watch live TV coverage of our games”. Rather just neglect those same appeals from the Irish living in Ireland then eh, Liam?
Perhaps it will prove to be fruitful and I will be proven wrong. I sure hope so.
Photos c/o irishmirror.ie, gaabanter.ie