GAA Football

GAA risks losing control with TV deal says Diarmuid Lyng

Diarmuid Lyng (second from left)

FORMER Wexford hurler Diarmuid Lyng fears that the GAA risks losing control of its own games if it continues down the path of selling TV rights to subscription-based broadcasters.

Lyng, along with Joe Brolly, Paul Rouse and Michael Duignan, has launched an online petition against the continued presence of GAA games behind a paywall.

As of last night just over 1,300 people had signed it, and Lyng, who was also heavily involved in the recent Gaelic Voices for Change movement, feels the broadcasting of games on Sky Sports since 2014 “contravenes everything that the GAA stands for” and that taking the organisation down a road of separating “haves and have-nots” is “dangerous territory”.

“It’s already been done in other sports when they bring in TV rights deals. The natural thing for an amateur organisation is to look to professional organisations, what they did and how did they do it?

“It’s understandable that you’d follow that path, but if you follow it on down the track, is rugby, for example, in the best place in terms of its community roots that it would have had?

“Paul Rouse has written extensively on the effect in England that TV has had on both rugby and cricket at the base level, at community level.

“You have to look at that and say where are the cultural thresholds that will have to be hit before we examine what our ethics and our commitment to our community values are.

“Games behind a paywall are definitely a threshold. I don’t know if it’s possible now to have a TV contract without pay-per-view but it definitely merits a very close look at how we’re going to put our games forward.

“It directly contravenes everything that the GAA stands for.

“Dividing the GAA community at large in terms of the haves and have-nots, I think you’re in dangerous territory then.

“Really what the basis of it is is that those who can afford to pay are worthwhile and those who can’t afford to pay aren’t worthwhile.

“The GAA is bigger than that and it has the capability and strength to stand on its own two feet, and not follow how other sports have gone, to carve their own way.”

The former Yellowbellies captain fears that the more the GAA comes to rely on its TV rights financially, the more ground it will concede in terms of how the games are run, and the closer it will push the association towards pay for play.

“The more we become dependent on our TV deals, that means we’re automatically going to focus more on the elite side of the game. That increasingly edges the game towards some form of pay for play.

“I don’t think you can necessarily claim you’re interested in preserving the amateur status of the association and then at the same time keep driving money up for TV contracts with corporations like Sky.”

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