Northern Ireland

Consultation on free-to-air events to recommence, minister claims following 'frustration' over GAAGO paywall

Two of this weekend's All-Ireland Senior Football clashes are locked behind the GAAGO paywall.
Two of this weekend's All-Ireland Senior Football clashes are locked behind the GAAGO paywall. Two of this weekend's All-Ireland Senior Football clashes are locked behind the GAAGO paywall.

Consultation on designating free-to-air GAA matches will recommence in the near future, it has been claimed following criticism of upcoming All-Ireland football clashes being placed behind a paywall on the GAAGO app.

Sinn Féin senator Niall Ó Donnghaile raised the issue in an Oireachtas sitting on Thursday.

He said the fact that the Tyrone vs Kerry and Armagh vs Monaghan games on Saturday are locked behind the app's paywall, while Sunday's Derry vs Cork and Dublin vs Mayo matches are being aired on RTÉ was causing "frustration" among fans.

"RTÉ can't show all of the games across their two stations, and it would be appropriate that they would find other platforms such as GAAGO," he said.

"But the fundamental question is, why the paywall? Why the need for that additional cost when people already pay the license fee?”

Mr Ó Donnghaile referred to the BBC iPlayer service, which provides content not aired on BBC TV channels at no extra cost.

"This is about fairness - it's about value for money for what you are already paying," he added.

Read more: Fans missing out as GAA games are locked behind paid app, Tánaiste warns

Read more: Cahair O'Kane: We're not ready for GAAGO, and it isn't ready for us

"I think it's a bit much in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis when people are already feeling it a bit tight and their backs are against the wall."

Speaking on behalf of the Republic's minister for culture and sport Catherine Martin, junior minister Patrick O'Donovan said the importance of the GAA to sports fans was "unquestionable".

He said sporting bodies faced a "balance between generating revenue and ensuring that as wide an audience as possible has access to games".

Mike Finnerty, Dave McIntyre, and Aisling O'Reilly, who provide exclusive content for the GAAGO app.
Mike Finnerty, Dave McIntyre, and Aisling O'Reilly, who provide exclusive content for the GAAGO app. Mike Finnerty, Dave McIntyre, and Aisling O'Reilly, who provide exclusive content for the GAAGO app.

"Over the course of the current championship, 31 matches will be broadcast (for free) for GAA fans. This is the same amount of matches that were available to view in the 2022 championship season, and GAAGO is providing games that were not previously available free-to-air, games that were in previous championships only broadcast by Sky or in some instances not available to view at all," Mr O'Donovan said.

He said changes to the championship structure meant matches were being played "over a shorter and more compact season", leading to high-profile fixtures "clashing".

Criteria for deciding major free-to-air events is decided under an EU directive, he added, with senior football, hurling and camogie All-Ireland finals the only Gaelic games with free-to-air status.

A consultation on designating events was paused by the culture minister to allow sporting bodies to recover from the impact of Covid.

Mr O'Donavan said the minister will recommence the process "in the near future".

He added a "detailed, independent evaluation" will also take place on the matter, before consultation with the European Commission which will consider proposed events against its criteria.

The Irish News approached the GAA for comment.