GAA chief keen to extend pay-television contracts

Paraic Duffy, director general of the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) in Ireland, has stated his desire to extend contracts with pay-television broadcasters, despite calls for games to return to free-to-air channels.

The GAA will this summer enter into the third and final year of a rights deal with Sky, which gives the UK pay-television broadcaster exclusive rights to 13 games per championship. The agreement is due to expire at the end of the 2017 season.

A motion passed in December at the Dublin Convention called for new rules regarding rights, whereby “all televised inter-country championship games shall be available on free-to-air television.”

The motion requires support from at least two-thirds of delegates at the February 26-27 Congress.

The Irish Examiner newspaper said that GAA chiefs are likely to adopt the measure if the motion secures the necessary backing. The GAA’s regional boards in Kerry, Clare and Donegal have openly backed calls over the past 12 months for games to return to free-to-air television.

Despite this, Duffy said in his annual report that the GAA is keen to extend, and excluding pay-television broadcasters from the bidding process for the next cycle of rights would undervalue its product.

“Any restriction that prohibits the GAA from engaging with all interested parties, including subscription-TV providers, would seriously reduce our negotiating power and thus our ability to achieve the true worth of our assets, and would inevitably lead to a greatly reduced media-rights income,” Duffy said.

“In what is already a small pool of potential broadcast partners, we must ensure the existence of a genuine market for our games and maintain the option of engaging with all interested parties, regardless of whether they are free-to-air or subscription providers. This flexibility and freedom is crucial if we are to nurture a competitive tender process and thus ensure that the GAA achieves the proper value for its rights.”