The thing that surprised me most was the fact that it took a very open, honest interview with Wexford legend Tom Dempsey for me to catch onto and agree with the point he was making.
To go forward with this production we must first go back. What is probably more years than any of us care to remember. When BSkyB entered the tendering process for GAA broadcasting rights. You see, its not all that long ago since they were RTE’s by exclusivity.
To their credit, TG4 were the first to disrupt the monopoly. Not so much by competing with the State broadcaster, more boldly going where nobody had gone before in that arena. Showing National League matches, club championships from around the country and the third level GAA competitions. Not to mention being title sponsors of the All Ireland Ladies SFC.
That still left Montrose with all of the Championships to cover in both football and hurling. Until, however long ago it was, the rights for ‘Summer’ matches – as they used to be before being needlessly changed – were made available for bidding.
Initially, TV3 (now Virgin Media) were the first to get in on the act. With Dave McIntyre and Mike Finnerty as commentators and a stellar team of pundits including Liam Hayes, Senan Connell, Peter Canavan, Jim McGuinness and David Brady for football and Jamesie O’Connor, Ollie Canning and Jackie Tyrell (among others) for hurling.
It turned out to be a bit like buses in terms of GAA broadcast rights, because after what felt like a very short time, they were up for grabs again and it was at that point Sky Sports entered the equation. In a very shrewd move by them, once they, basically, took TV3’s slot, they brought the latter’s pundit team with them. And had their coverage fronted by Rachel Wyse and former Irish Rugby League and Rugby Union international Brian Carney.
Now, at this point it will be admitted that yours truly is in the fortunate position of having Sky Sports at home. Indeed, having them on board with GAA was seen as a major positive, purely because it allowed Irish diaspora around the world keep astride of what was going on in our games. As well as opening same to a whole new audience.
That said, of course there was a cognisance that, knowing the premise on which Sky operate – subscription – was going to cut large swathes – or more specifically a certain demographic – of the GAA public off from matches at what should be the best time of the year.
Suggesting that those who didn’t have the subscription service could go to a local pub or clubhouse to view matches misses the point here entirely. Naturally, improvements in technology can and should be for the betterment of GAA. But by making the product more widely available, not less so.
Thus, it would have been assumed that Sky exiting the picture would have been largely well received as it would see the end of matches behind pay walls. Lo and behold, what do the GAA do? Go (literally) and shoot themselves in both feet simultaneously.
Don’t get me wrong, the idea behind the GAAGo app is a sound one. As in, making our games available ‘on the go’ but does it not, in fact, work out to be even worse than the Sky deal? Personally speaking, I have no problem admitting that – were it not for Covid-19 and lockdowns – the graduation from trusty old Nokia to the whole Smartphone/Tablet scene might never have occurred.
By the way, in no way am I trying to depict a cohort of GAA devotees as technologically inept – trust me, glass houses and stones people – but what the current system amounts to is basically an even worse setup than that for which the British company – and the Association – were roundly condemned.
It’s not being fanciful to suggest that it’s heading back to the days when people used to crowd around the ‘wireless’ to listen to Micheal O’Hehir bring matches to life long ago. What’s most annoying about that is, there’s absolutely no need for it to be as such.
By all means, if the GAA wanted to provide an online broadcast platform that could only be seen as a good thing, but for Christ sake do it properly. That is to say, not behind a bloody pay wall. Being a journalist and website owner myself, this might come as a surprise to some, but there’s nothing I despise more in the modern media world than Subscription Only content, or ‘Premium’ as it tends to be very thinly veiled.
At a time when the media industry and market is saturated with content producers – some of them at the high end of banality – putting one’s best wheel forward is essential. Asking people to pay extra for what should be routinely available is not that. You don’t have to pay for a cow’s silage when ordering a litre of milk!
Only too well is it known how difficult it is to make a buck at this journalism mallarkey, you’re reading the words of somebody who took eight months to reach a €70 payment threshold for this very website. However, there are better and less crass ways of doing it than to bite the hand which has fed you since God was a gasun.
Patreon is one option which a lot of independent creators use but even that is only a watered down version of a pay wall. If an individual or entity were absolutely hell bent on making a few readies, a site such as Buy Me A Coffee is a much better option as it allows people donate whatever amount they wish.
The point here though is that neither of the entities involved with GAAGo, the GAA itself and RTE are in need of additional money but their hunger (greed?) for it has disenfranchised those who have done most to put both in the incredibly strong societal positions they command today. And it’s only against a backdrop like the enthralling Munster SHC encounter between Cork and Tipperary last weekend that the idiocy of the GAA’s new media direction is further amplified. For what it’s worth, the previous week’s meeting of Clare and Limerick wasn’t half bad either!
Instead, RTE chose to put the drab, pedantic, predictable football finals in Connacht and Munster on mainstream television. Add to that the fact that – at least at the time of typing – Cavan-Laois is the only Tailteann Cup game slated for broadcast (on GAAGo) and it doesn’t say much about their promotion of a competition which was supposed to be the saving grace of Gaelic football.
Speaking of marketing and promotion, maybe somebody needs to tell the Brains Trust to evaluate their punchline – ‘Where we all belong’. Really?