A campaign has commenced locally to ensure that all GAA matches are ‘free-to-air’ following the failure to transmit the recently replayed Connacht football final.
Musicians, politicians and footballers, past and present, are behind the campaign to ensure that all football and hurling matches are readily available and not subscription-based.
At the Connacht football final replay in Castlebar between Galway and Roscommon, Tuam singer-songwriter Seamus Ruttledge held a one-man protest outside the ground over the fact that it was not being televised live.
The match was available on the RTE website but many had difficulty in actually accessing the link to the player and were left more than infuriated. The free-to-air campaign is already gathering momentum.
It has the support of Leo Moran of The Saw Doctors, Senator John O’Mahony, who guided Galway to two All-Ireland successes and actually raised the matter in the Seanad, and well known journalist Jim Carney. There are several Galway and Mayo footballers who are also behind the campaign not the sell the viewing rights to Sky.
Seamus Ruttledge told The Connacht Tribune that the Connacht football final replay could not be played or televised on the Saturday evening because Sky had the rights to some of the qualifiers so the match had to be played on the Sunday.
Given the fact that the Ulster football final and the Leinster football final were down for decision on the same day, the Connacht final replay could not be televised live and was only available on the RTE Player, which became inaccessible for thousands of fans who wanted to watch the match.
Tuam’s Cllr Shaun Cunniffe is also behind the campaign to ensure all GAA games are free to the public in view of the fact that it is an amateur game and none of the players are being paid for their commitment.
“What happened for the Connacht final replay was unforgivable. It was still a provincial decider and the fact that it could not be held on the Saturday because of Sky commitments meant that it could not be broadcast live the following day.
“There are people who simply cannot get to games and who don’t subscribe to the likes of Sky but the least they should be entitled to is to watch a Connacht final on their televisions,” Cllr Cunniffe added.
Outside the Connacht football final replay in Castlebar, Seamus Ruttledge displaying signs saying that Gaelic games are not for sale and that he did not support a pay-per-view arrangement between the GAA and Sky Sports.
He said that he intended to form a lobby group to ensure that all GAA matches are available free-to-air. “Most GAA followers have no direct connection with GAA headquarters or the annual GAA congress,” he said.
Seamus Ruttledge added that it was this cohort of followers who wanted to watch matches over the summer months and should not be alienated by having to subscribe to Sky Sports. “It seems as if Sky is dictating everything at the moment”, he said.
“It just seems that the rank and file supporter has no input on deals that are made with Sky Sports. What is happening at the moment is horrendous and the fact that we cannot watch a Connacht football final is totally unacceptable,” Seamus Ruttledge added.