GAA Football

Armagh All-Ireland winner Justin McNulty meets with BBC NI over 'paltry' GAA coverage

"The people with the most money get the access and that is the sad reality," says Justin McNulty who met with GAA Director General Tom Ryan to outline his concern at coverage of GAA in the North
Andy Watters

ARMAGH All-Ireland winner Justin McNulty held a “robust” meeting with BBC NI chiefs yesterday and called for a radical overhaul of the broadcaster’s coverage of Gaelic Games in the North.

The former Orchard county defender, now SDLP MLA for Newry and Armagh, met with Eddie Doyle (head of content production) and Jane Tohill (executive producer of sport) to outline his concerns with the BBC’s “paltry” coverage of the 2018 Ulster Championship.

“It was a very robust meetiag,” said the Mullaghbawn native.

“I want to see more games on BBC and it’s disappointing that their coverage has been reduced this season. Two live games, two live on the iPlayer and four games deferred is not exactly a significant amount of GAA broadcasting in the North.

“I want them to improve their coverage, be that county football, club football, camogie or ladies’ football.”

He added: “They were very receptive, they heard our views and explained the challenges they face in terms of the evolution of sports rights.

“They stressed that they are committed to maximising their coverage of the games across all platforms. There are two years still to go on the current rights deal and they are already negotiating with the GAA but I don’t want to wait two years to see more coverage of our games.”

There huge crowds across Ulster at county championship matches last weekend and McNulty also highlighted the “huge potential in the club game” at yesterday’s meeting. He called on the BBC to begin screening club championship action.

“There is a huge interest in the GAA but that hunger to see our indigenous sports is not being met and it’s not being met by the BBC,” he said.

“I used to love ‘The Championship’ with Jimmy Smyth but the coverage of the games has been very much reduced since then.

“It’s wrong that people aren’t getting to see sports that they feel passionately about on TV or online. It needs to be improved and I hammered that point home.”

Prior to his meeting with the BBC, former Laois manager McNulty had already met with GAA Director General Tom Ryan to outline his concerns.

“He was aware of the issues,” he explained.

“The broadcasting rights are a major barrier to us – the people with the most money get the access and that is the sad reality and that is what has happened through the SKY deal.

“The Super 8s give us more games at the top level and, as a fan, I think they are fantastic but we need to see the same coverage of the games in the North as there is in the South.”

“BBC should have access to games like the Donegal-Tyrone Super 8 game. There may not be a huge interest Ireland-wide but there is a huge interest across Ulster and those games should be broadcast live in Ulster.”

“We all feel very passionately about Gaelic Games and participation is increasing year-on-year but we need to be promoting our games at every opportunity and via broadcasting is a no-brainer,” said McNulty, whose Killeavy side clash with Pearse Og in Armagh’s senior championship on Friday night.

“The BBC is in negotiations with the GAA to see how the broadcasting deal that has been agreed already can be enhanced and they are doing their best to work within the constraints they have.

“I don’t think the BBC can compete with SKY in terms of the kitty they have at their disposal but they are hoping that the GAA will see that there are gaps here and the opportunities that can be explored in terms of games that are not broadcast by SKY or RTE. Why are the BBC not able to take their pick of those games?

“Two live games in the season is ridiculous.”

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