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‘We have to sell our games’ – GAA President Jarlath Burns makes no apologies for GAAGO decision


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Tánaiste Micheál Martin said RTÉ and the GAA ‘need to go back to the drawing board’

And he said he is seeking an early meeting with the Taoiseach and Tánaiste over the Government’s criticism of the streaming service.

Mr Burns said he was “surprised and disappointed” by criticism of the service by Simon Harris and Micheál Martin.

Burns was speaking on RTÉ’s ‘Today with Claire Byrne’ show this morning after another week of controversy over a big Munster hurling championship game, Cork’s epic win over Limerick, not being shown on free-to-air TV.

The GAA faced strong criticism from leading political figures including Taoiseach Simon Harris and Tánaiste Micheál Martin while a Cork-based senator, Tim Lombard, called on Burns to appear before an Oireachtas committee.

Burns has declined that invitation on the basis that the GAA were before that committee last year.

And he expressed “surprise and disappointment” with the comments of those Government leaders on GAAGO before revealing he will request a meeting with them on the issue.

Today’s Sport News in 90 Seconds – 13th May

Burns also revealed he had a meeting last week with Minister for Sport Thomas Byrne and Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe, where no issues were raised about the streaming service.

“We put it on the agenda, GAAGO, we asked him (Minister Byrne) if there were any residual issues coming up. He said no.

“I had an excellent meeting with Minister Donohoe in Croke Park, he has great passion and understanding of the GAA. GAAGO didn’t even come up,” said Burns.

“I am very surprised and disappointed that the Taoiseach and then the Tánaiste would speak about something that we have already been in front of an Oireachtas committee for. They (committee) were satisfied with our answers, it came up last week at that meeting, there were no issues. You would almost think there was an election coming up.”

Burns said that while he understood some people’s frustration with the Cork-Limerick game going behind a paywall, he stressed the commercial reality was that GAAGO had to include some big games to make the subscription (€69 per year) attractive.

“In order to make GAAGO financially viable we can’t just show the peripheral small games that we’re not going to have on (otherwise) so we do have to some games to attract people to the €69 that they will say, ‘there’s a couple of big games on that will justify my purchase.’

“Remember, we do not have shareholders, we have stakeholders and those stakeholders are demanding that we do our best to fund all of these infrastructure projects and all of the €75m that we give back (to county boards and clubs).

Burns estimated that between the development and redevelopment of stadiums in up to six counties and centres of excellence in another eight, the GAA could require €500m in the next few years for infrastructure projects.

And referring to Senator Lombard’s criticism and invitation to go before another committee hearing, Burns referenced the outstanding debt on Supervalu Páirc Uí Chaoimh, where Saturday night’s game was played.

“The stadium that Senator Lombard was standing in making his comments the other day, there is a €33m debt on that.

“Where are we going to get the money for that if we don’t have some form of revenue generation, particularly in a climate where there is only one broadcasting partner?” he asked.

“If you wanted to watch that match, it was €1.76. If you wanted to go it was €30. That’s the ultimate paywall.”

Burns drew comparison with yesterday’s Premier League game between Arsenal and Manchester United, suggesting those clubs would make more from broadcasting rights for that than the GAA would in five years, adding that their (Premier League clubs) next revenue streams were from alcohol and gambling sponsorships, something that the GAA prohibits.

“The only place we can get it from is from the selling of our games and GAAGO is a small but very important part of that,” he said, adding that criticism from former players over the absence of free-to-air coverage for Cork Limerick was “superficial, emotional comment that doesn’t take into consideration the complexities of the logistics that we have to deal with in a real world.”

He also took issue with suggestions that the GAA had lost touch with the grassroots.

“We were accused on the ‘Saturday Game’ of having lost touch with the grassroots. Having the split season shows that we are absolutely in tune with the grassroots,” said Burns.

“As a result of the condensed nature, Armagh and Donegal weren’t able to have a replay. We (Armagh) have now lost two Ulster finals on penalties.

“You can imagine the GAA president in Clones yesterday with all his (Armagh) supporters around him begging to stop penalties. We have penalties because of the condensed season.

“Why do we have a condensed season? Because our clubs were telling us that they weren’t able to get all of their championship games finished in the time that they had. Our clubs are the primary unit. we have to listen to our members.”

Tánaiste Micheál Martin defended his comments on GAAGO today as his spokesperson said “many people” share his views.

They said his views shouldn’t “come as any surprise”.

The spokesperson said Mr Martin “regularly” meets with the GAA and “has no issue meeting again.”

Over the weekend, Mr Martin said GAA and RTÉ “need to go back to the drawing board”.

He said it is very important that “as wide an audience as possible” should be reached in airing hurling matches.

Meanwhile, Fine Gael Senator Tim Lombard said it was “surprising” Mr Burns has refused an invitation to attend.

“At a time when transparency is crucial, the GAA should be using the opportunity to explain their decisions, not dodging important discussions,” Mr Lombard said in a statement.

“They should appear before the Seanad Committee on Parliamentary Privileges and Oversight.

“The GAA has to remember its roots—it’s not about extracting revenue by any means; it’s about ensuring the long-term success of the game and the community it builds.”

Over the weekend, Mr Lombard said that GAAGO “must go”.

However, Fianna Fáil Senator Malcolm Byrne said the “row” about GAAGO is “nonsense”.

“This row about GAAGo is a nonsense,” he said. “GAAGo is allowing more games to be shown and is also vital for international audiences.”

He said GAAGO was discussed extensively at the Oireachtas Sports Committee last year, where RTÉ and GAA executives were hauled in.

“We need to accept that broadcasting revenue will form a growing part of funding of sports bodies into the future,” he said.

Mr Byrne also pointed to three big sporting bodies saying previously that up to 20pc of their revenue was from broadcasting.

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