Northern Ireland

Niall Ó Donnghaile: GAAGo must change to make sure everyone, across Ireland can view matches

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

The GAA is community spirit at its very best.

The buzz around a big match is hard to beat. As fans, young and old, cheer on their local club or county with passion and pride. The joy that games bring goes far beyond sport and brings a sense of belonging and shared community on and off the pitch.

At its heart, the GAA is packed with people who are dedicated to this vision and who are committed to playing their part to ensure the GAA is the very best that it can be. But I know that many people in the GAA, among fans and the wider community have been disappointed by the handling of GAAGo.

The streaming service moves many matches to being behind a paywall online in partnership with RTÉ.

To have games of this importance behind a paywall, to me, goes against everything that the GAA should stand for and runs completely contrary to the community role it should hold most dear.

I understand the initial logic of this platform was clearly a well intentioned initiative to enable our global diaspora to view matches.

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I also accept that RTÉ cannot show every single game across its two channels. But it is clear for all to see that GAAGo has now evolved into something completely different.

The costs can mount up for fans who are already being hit with a cost of living crisis. On top of this, many older fans are unable to access an online streaming service. In rural areas with poor broadband, services can be patchy and fail to operate properly.

Indeed, it’s still not clear to me, the methodology used to put some games behind a paywall and not others. Many fans feel it is a game of pot luck and can see no rhyme or reason as to why their crucial ties are behind a paywall while other fixtures don’t face the same barriers.

Many feel this is unfair and we saw understandable concerns that it disproportionately impacted Kerry games most recently. The decisions for some games to be free to view, while others are not is baffling and inconsistent. This has exasperated fans.

It is not only the GAA that has a duty to fans here. RTÉ is meant to be the public service broadcaster, and these are our national games. RTÉ should step up to the plate and take on board the response from fans to resolve these issues urgently.

The GAA must listen to audiences and viewers, but it also has to listen to members. And they’re saying that it’s time to look again at GAAGo and the clear issues that have emerged.

The service must change and adapt to make sure that everyone, across Ireland can view these matches. To ensure that no-one is left behind and that the GAA continues to prioritise its community ethos that makes it so important in modern Ireland and the envy of so many around the world. 

:: Niall Ó Donnghaile is a Sinn Féin senator.