Sky Sports to screen Gaelic games
Broadcaster Sky Sports has secured rights for the first time to take Ireland's national Gaelic games to an international audience.
The channel will air 14 games from the All-Ireland Championships, including the hurling and football semi-finals and finals for subscribers in Britain and Ireland.
Out of the 45 games to be broadcast live on television each year for the next three years, 31 will be on Ireland's free to air national broadcaster RTE and the other 14 on the satellite subscription.
The deal, although a guaranteed money-spinner and sure to generate renewed interest in the amateur sports overseas, is not without its critics.
Liam O'Neill, president of the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) , defended the new contract, saying it should be seen as an exciting development for the organisation.
He said: "Making our games more widely available to Irish people abroad was a critical factor in our approach to these negotiations.
"We felt an obligation to them not to neglect their legitimate appeals to be able to watch live TV coverage of our games. We are also glad that this brings the quality and excitement of our games to a wider international audience.
"Gaelic games are national games played in a small country, and which must compete for audience loyalty with the hugely powerful sporting and marketing resources of international sports.
"The GAA has to fight its corner, and must ensure that it maintains a strong presence across a range of media outlets so that we can continue to fund our clubs in the important sporting, cultural and social roles they perform in their communities. "
In a further deal to showcase the GAA internationally, Channel 7 in Australia is also showing all 45 live championship games free to air.
Paraic O Dufaigh, GAA managing director, said the Sky Sports deal was not about money.
He said: "Financial considerations were far from being the guiding criterion in our negotiations, and were of lesser importance than the issue of making our games more widely available to Irish people living abroad. In fact, the financial benefit to the GAA from the new broadcast contracts compared to the previous ones is marginal."
Supporters of the new deal have pointed to the production values Sky will bring to broadcasts such as camera angles and other technical expertise.
Sky Sports will show eight Saturday evening matches in the All-Ireland qualifiers, two All-Ireland football championship quarter-finals, and two Saturday evening and two Sunday provincial championship games.
On top of that it will also show the hurling and football semi-finals and finals but not exclusively.