Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 22 July 2014

GAA players stars welcome Sky deal as chance to go global

Sky Sports will televise GAA after becoming a broadcast partner

Sean Potts, a spokesman for the Gaelic Players' Association, has warmly welcomed Sky TV coming on board as a broadcast partner of the GAA.

Drawing comparisons with the success and growth of Rugby's Heineken Cup – which has been the preserve of Sky since 2006 – Potts feels the GAA's partnership with the broadcaster will help expand the brand across the globe.

"The commercial reality about this, is the GAA are safeguarding their own commercial future," he said. "I think it's very important that they get into the paywall sector. I think you have seen that in rugby, and the Heineken Cup hasn't been free-to-air since 2006.

"The GAA need to compete in that area, in that space for hearts and minds, on these platforms where these sports are operating."

In recent years, the GPA have been actively promoting the inter-county game across the globe and, with the games now set to be beamed into the homes of the diaspora, this holds great appeal to Potts.

"Any move the GAA makes that increases exposure of our games and our players is welcomed by the players. In particular with increased exposure to the games internationally," he said.

He acknowledges the GAA have done sterling work in securing and growing the Association in the heartlands of New York and Boston, but feels there are other avenues to explore.

"What they haven't been so good at, is maybe promoting the county game and what we believe to be sports on a par with the best in professional sports globally," he added.

"I think after the All-Ireland hurling final replay last year a number of people were saying that if you could only bottle that, if people could only see how good these sports are.

"Well, we would welcome this as maybe the first step in providing greater access to those abroad."

Gaelic games have taken root in some unfamiliar places, and with increased exposure comes more opportunity. For example, the sport of hurling has become very popular among ex-servicemen in Milwaukee, with no previous connection to the game.

Potts sees the benefit of pushing the main product onto a greater platform.

"I think the idea that you could develop a new audience isn't as out there as people may think. It's in our interest to have their performances exposed to a wider audience."

There have been complaints about the harm it will do in denying non-Sky subscribers the chance to see some games, but Potts counters that. "I think it's good for the grassroots GAA people. Any club worth its' salt will use this in a very novel way to show games to attract people into the club for those that can't attend. I see it as a very positive step."

Former GAA players such as Sydney Swans' Tommy Walsh and Radio presenter Colm Parkinson took to Twitter to suggest the players stand to be abused by the deal, Parkinson even going as far as to suggest they should strike until they received payment.

Potts poured cold water on the notion, saying, "It's a red herring. Players are now supported through development programmes. Colm Parkinson himself was supported through the development programme.

"That's how we are dealing with this and how we will deal with it in the future. People do not want to surrender what the GAA is in this country for the sake of professionalism, they will not do that. And it won't happen."

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