Northern Ireland news

Joe Brolly hits out at GAA over Sky Sports match audiences

Tyrone's Cathal McShane and Roscommon's Conor Daly in action on Saturday. Picture by Philip Walsh
Brendan Hughes

GAA pundit Joe Brolly has claimed tens of thousands of people in hospitals and nursing homes are being "deprived of seeing our games" as he hit out at viewing figures for matches aired exclusively on Sky Sports.

The subscription-based broadcaster's airing of Sunday's 'Super 8s' football tie between Donegal and Meath had an average audience of 1,000 in the UK, and a peak of just 2,000.

Its coverage of Tyrone v Roscommon fared a little better, with an average audience on Saturday of 14,000 and a peak of 20,000.

The figures were shared online by BBC producer Darran Marshall, who said they are for UK viewers only and do not include people watching on demand, on Now TV or in pubs.

A Sky spokeswoman said it estimated that the Meath/Donegal game reached around 340,000 people across Britain and Ireland, including those watching in commercial premises, on Sky Go or through NOW TV.

She said since Sky began broadcasting GAA games “our top class coverage and analysis has raised the bar in terms of production values”.

“There’s also more games than ever on TV – which is surely a good thing for those who can’t make it to a match,” she said.

She added: “It’s not just about ratings for Sky. We are investing in GAA for the long term. We support three key grass roots initiatives with the GAA – most notably the Super Games Centres in an effort to stop youth drop out and have committed to investing €3m over 5 years directly into GAA grassroots.”

In 2014, the GAA struck a deal with Sky to hold exclusive rights to some championship matches.

The association has previously defended the deal, arguing that it offers a vital outlet to GAA fans overseas.

Tyrone's last two championship games, away to Kildare and Roscommon, have both been exclusive to Sky and their clash against Cork at Croke Park this Saturday will also be screened by the satellite channel.

Reacting to the figures on Twitter, Derry All-Ireland winner Joe Brolly said: "And we were told by Pauric Duffy [former GAA director general] the Sky deal was done for the benefit of UK gaels."

He then tweeted to various GAA bodies, asking: "How can you continue to justify this?

"10,000 patients in Irish hospitals deprived of seeing our games; 120,000 in nursing homes.

"What of rural Ireland, the elderly and those who are struggling to get by?"

Sinn Féin South Down MLA Sinéad Ennis also tweeted: "Think the GAA now need to seriously review and reflect on their contractual arrangements with Sky Sports.

"We've been told that the Sky deal would platform, promote and enhance our games with a new audience. Seems quite the opposite is happening, if these figures are correct."

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