GAA Football

Tyrone PRO received 'vile' abuse over county finals streaming charges

TYRONE's county PRO Eugene McConnell has revealed that he, his family, and friends were subjected to “horrendous and vile abuse” over the cost of live streaming county finals - charges which he argued were too high.

Tyrone's Cathal McShane celebrates with Tyrone Pro Eugene McConnell after winning the All-Ireland SFC Final.
Pic Philip Walsh

TYRONE’s county PRO has revealed that he, his family, and friends were subjected to “horrendous and vile abuse” over the cost of live streaming county finals - charges which he had privately argued were too high.

Eugene McConnell publicly defended the £16 charge for the senior final between Dromore and Coalisland, speaking in the spirit of collective responsibility. However, in his annual report he points out that “I personally at every stage was not in favour of any price increases and furthermore I disagreed at those suggested increases.”

The Irish News has seen communications which confirm McConnell’s version of events as he and others suggested a lower pricing structure and warned of the backlash which would ensue.

Tyrone County Board did indeed receive serious criticism for rejecting an approach from TG4 to broadcast their senior football final live, instead choosing to show it on Tyrone GAA TV. The £16 cost provoked incredulity and anger from many.

Initially Tyrone had decided to show no matches online before the semi-finals stage but altered that approach.

The Irish News understands that Tyrone made around £50,000 from charging for live streaming of 44 championship matches before the finals, the bulk of that income arising from its streaming of the SFC semi-final between Coalisland and Errigal Ciaran; the county board had allowed the other semi between Dromore and Trillick to be broadcast by RTE.

The Tyrone authorities then charged £13 for the Junior Final, £14 for the Intermediate, and £16 for the Senior Final. The 2020 SFC Final attracted 6,000 purchasers, at £10 per head, although officially only 500 spectators were allowed in to that decider between Dungannon and Trillick.

That means the cost this year represented a whopping 60 per cent increase, a rise which was vigorously opposed by McConnell and at least two other county board officials.

However, the pricing structure agreed by a majority of county board officers in late October was maintained, leading to a public outcry within Tyrone and much further afield at what was perceived as greed.

In his annual report, PRO McConnell calls for ‘a fair and equal cost charge’ for streaming games and points out that those involved in making Tyrone GAA TV a success are all volunteers who “do not charge a penny”:

“Looking forward, I feel a consensus needs to be reached on what should be a fair and equal cost charge for the ability to watch our games. Ultimately this will benefit all concerned.

“I personally have put so much time and energy into making Tyrone GAA TV a success and I am so lucky to be able to call on a large group of individuals who help to make this happen at no cost to anyone.

“They are all volunteers and they do not charge a penny. Again, many nameless individuals ridicule and criticise their efforts which is totally unfair. I thank them for their loyalty shown to me and Tyrone GAA.”

In his report McConnell reveals that the Tyrone website has had 2.3million visitors and the county has 70,000 Twitter followers, 46,000 on what was Facebook, and 21,000 on Instagram.

He once again stresses the strain that puts on a PRO, though, commenting: “The GAA followers of Tyrone GAA demand that that they receive all updates and information almost as soon as it happens.

“The unfortunate downside to the unsatisfiable demands placed is at times those individuals can lose the run of what expectations they may have of someone who is simply a volunteer trying to do their best in such a busy and demanding role.”

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