A lot has been said following the announcement of RTE’s broadcasting schedule for the opening two months of this year’s championship.
With a hurling heavy schedule announced a lot of football fan’s noses have been turned up at the perceived lack of coverage the ‘big ball’ is going to get.
However, it’s important to note that while the opening two months are dominated by hurling, the beginning of the Super 8s in July will surely lend itself to increased coverage of football. Also, with the Munster Championship round-robin taking centre stage over the next few weeks is there really an argument to be had?
So while one broadcaster is coming under fire for a lack of football coverage the other big fish seems to be swimming along nicely in the knowledge that they have a couple of extra ‘big ball’ games to keep football fans happy. However, let’s not let them off the hook that easily as they made a huge error in judgement this past weekend (and the past five years for that matter) by not televising the opening two games of the football championship involving, London and New York.
As is normally the case, the two international sides took the spotlight this past weekend for their respective outings against Galway and Mayo. The Exiles ran the Tribesmen close, falling in the end by just four points while New York fell victim to a one-sided drubbing against James Horan’s charges.
When the GAA announced their partnership with Sky Sports back in 2014 it was met with hostility in many circles and rightly so. It’s hard to justify the decision to take the exclusive rights to games that have been free-to-air for so long and then put them behind a pay-wall. However, in time, there have been fewer and fewer rumblings surrounding the Sky Sports deal, maybe because in comparison to RTE the level of punditry is night and day.
I, myself, admit to being one of these people that was staunchly against the idea of Sky Sports broadcasting GAA games at the expense of a TV3 (now Virgin Media) or indeed, TG4, but have relaxed somewhat given the job they do in terms of analysing the game and giving the viewer a different insight.
Despite the fact that the standard of coverage is much better than the norm it’s wrong to look past their inability to see how important it was for them to showcase London and New York’s Connacht Championship clashes.
After the announcement, then Director-General, Paraic Duffy, defended the deal claiming that it was not one driven by financial gain and that the increased viewership in areas such as Britain would massively spike interest in our national games.
“Our membership is not just membership in Ireland. We have people all over the world with clubs in Dubai to North America to Asia to Britain. What we have done today is made our games available to them in a way that has never happened before.
“Let’s not underestimate the promotional value of this. We’re putting our games before millions.
“It’s no different to people here watching American football and enjoying it. The game of hurling, when people in Britain and around the world see it, the increase in interest will be massive.”
The decision to consistently overlook the screening of this particular weekend of GAA action is confusing as they have the perfect platform to really sell it.
What better way to pique the interest of the British public by showing them that they are represented in the GAA world. Why wasn’t there a marketing campaign behind the homegrown talent such as the Butler brothers, born and raised in London, yet devoted to Gaelic Games?
Imagine the Sky Sports News package Rachel Wyse could have done by travelling to New York and talking to men like Shane Hogan who’ve been playing GAA in the world’s most famous city since they were five-years-old.
The ODI between England and Ireland in Malahide last Friday was broadcast live on Sky Sports, surely it would have been ideal if the international GAA double-header was advertised to a British audience in order to try and spike interest among a much larger demographic than just the Irish abroad.
As a broadcasting company based in London surely someone in the office must have mentioned that the English capital has a team. Surely, they’ve alluded to the fact that Ruislip is packed with a carnival-like atmosphere in early May year upon year upon year.
Not only is it an opportunity to increase viewership and reach a whole other audience, but scenes such as London-born Killian Butler rattling the onion bag or the Mayo massive taking over Times Square in many ways highlights exactly what the GAA is all about.
They’re really missing a trick here.