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Sky remains in the mix for rights as GAA Congress rejects motion

Pay-television broadcaster Sky will retain the ability to extend its rights deal with the Gaelic Athletic Association in Ireland after a motion to make all televised championship games available free to air was defeated.

The GAA will this summer enter into the third and final year of a rights deal with Sky, which gives the pay-television broadcaster exclusive rights to 14 games per championship. Public-service broadcaster RTÉ has access to 31.

The agreement is due to expire at the end of the 2017 season and 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 required support from at least two thirds of delegates at the GAA’s Annual Congress, which concluded on Saturday. However, an overwhelming 85 per cent of delegates voted to maintain the status quo, allowing the GAA to negotiate with all broadcasters.

The Irish Times newspaper said Dublin delegate Ken O’Sullivan had proposed the motion, saying that the GAA “was built on inclusion and solidarity” and that pay-television makes “the older and poorer considerably less likely to be able to watch” matches. He was backed by Donegal but those opposed included delegates from Cavan, Cork, Galway, Longford, and New York.

The arguments against centred on the inadvisability of reducing the GAA’s options when it came to the negotiation of media rights for the 2017-19 cycle, with talks expected to commence later this year. Ger Lane, chair of Cork county board, said that having different service providers “enhances the position of the negotiating team” and also queried whether such matters should be in the rule book.

As the motion failed to gain one third of the vote it now cannot be raised for another three years.