GAA Football

Lack of TV coverage 'a massive blow' says Rory Gallagher

Fermanagh manager Rory Gallagher. Picture by Seamus Loughran

FERMANAGH manager Rory Gallagher believes the GAA has made a mistake in not allowing more games to be shown live on TV this summer.

RTÉ and BBC NI confirmed their schedules earlier this week, and while Sky Sports have yet to release theirs publicly, it's known that there will only be two games from this year's Ulster SFC broadcast live on TV.

Another two – namely Fermanagh's opener against Armagh and Down's clash with Antrim – will be shown live on the BBC iPlayer, while the other four games will be subject to full deferred coverage.

It represents a cut from seven of the eight games in the province being shown live this year, with RTÉ making a definite move towards the revamped Munster SHC, from which they will show six round robin games and the final.

The introduction of the Super 8 quarter-finals to the football championship has also attracted the attention of broadcasters, with RTÉ set to show up to eight games from the All-Ireland series live, while Sky are likely to add to that figure.

The Ulster Championship was traditionally shown live on BBC NI up until Sky entered the market in 2014, since when the northern broadcaster has only been allowed to show live games that are already being shown by RTÉ.

“I think it's a big loss in Ulster, we've been so used to it having 80 or 85 per cent of the games on TV, and BBC have given excellent coverage to it. I think it's a massive blow,” said Gallagher.

“I know in my day-to-day life, working with customers in the shop, there's a huge population who support the team and follow the team but don't actually go to games.

“Their kids might go or their grandkids might be involved or follow football. There's a huge amount of the elderly population who just don't go to games, and that has been taken from them.

“I think that's a huge disappointment from the restructure and rescheduling of the championship.”

The GAA's latest broadcasting deal was signed in 2016 but thanks to restructures in both codes, there are an extra 13 games between football and hurling this year that weren't part of last year's schedule.

But they resisted the opportunity to increase the number of live games, freezing it at 45, of which 31 are live on RTÉ and 14 exclusively on Sky Sports, which also shows the semi-finals and finals in its overall quota of 20 games.

“I would absolutely [like to see the number of live games increased]. The thought of Tyrone-Monaghan, our own game against Armagh, those games reach out,” said the Erne boss.

“The big thing of Sky was about reaching out to people in England and the States. I've been in the States when those games are on and seen what they mean to people.

“It's become top-heavy with the elite end because of the Super 8 and the hurling round-robin system. These other games are massive to people and it's taking away from their opportunity to see them.

“If they're going to play more games, it would have been nice to see them expand it [the TV deal] and include more of the games.

“The number of people that watch games at home but it mightn't suit to go, and there are only so many seated tickets at all the venues, that's the disappointment of them.

“That's a direct result of the Super 8s, and that seems to be a downside of it. I think it's going to monopolise more of the games.”

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