RTÉ Head of Sport Declan McBennett has said the decision not to renew the contract of former Gaelic Football pundit Joe Brolly was made prior to the drawn All-Ireland final last year.
The Derry native was replaced on the Sunday Game panel by Stephen Rochford for the All-Ireland final replay between Dublin and Kerry after he accused referee David Gough of being “influenced by Kerry propaganda” in his decision to send off Jonny Cooper just before half-time.
Brolly later apologised for his comments but parted ways with RTÉ shortly afterwards following almost two decades of punditry with the broadcaster.
The 50-year-old has since joined eir Sport and speaking at the launch of their coverage of the Allianz Leagues earlier this year, Brolly claimed that he was told by McBennett that he was let go due to matters arising in the drawn game.
Joe Brolly's association with RTE has come to an end after almost two decades, according to reports. https://t.co/8ucp4dvaPn
— Pundit Arena (@PunditArena) September 11, 2019
However, speaking on the Irish Examiner sports podcast, McBennett has refuted his claims, insisting that RTÉ’s decision to part ways with Brolly was made prior to the game.
“The decision with regard to Joe’s contract was taken before the first drawn game.
“There are two reasons why people leave RTÉ. Number one is the passage of time means that things roll on. The other is if you have your contract cancelled and if your contract is not renewed you have to ask why was it not renewed.”
According to McBennett, there are four reasons why a person’s contract is not renewed. He said that Brolly can look to those areas for an explanation into his cancelled contract.
“Not doing the hard yards in terms of preparation. If key people on my team don’t want to work with individuals anymore. If you’re damaging the credibility more than you’re enhancing it. Or if your interaction with other people engaged with RTÉ is not at the level we want it.”
Following his departure, Brolly also claimed that the broadcasting in RTÉ had become too “micro-managed” and said that a script was presented to him ahead of the All-Ireland final.
“I got a script for the All-Ireland final. I took a few screenshots so I wouldn’t doubt my own sanity. ‘You say this and this, and your video package will be this and this.’ I rang up said you need a newsreader or a narrator.”
McBennett strongly denied that their pundits are coached saying that the issue has never been raised by anyone else.
“Fundamentally, the key thing that has emerged from a number of those non-contract renewals are along the following lines: nobody has ever been told what to say in RTÉ.
“We had 39 (GAA) pundits working for us last year; we have 30 working for us this year. Not one of of those pundits has come out and said, ‘We’ve been told what to say or what not to say. We were encouraged to say this or we were encouraged to say that or we were told not to say that.’ That’s not the nature of things.”
You can listen to the full Irish Examiner podcast with Declan McBennett here.