GAA Congress: Sky Sports still in the mix after free-to-air motion defeated

By John Fogarty

Sky Sports will be a contender in the next round of media rights later this year after a Dublin motion was emphatically defeated at Congress today.

Dublin had called for all televised championship games to be made available on free-to-air TV in Ireland, preventing Croke Park from engaging with pay-per-view companies about exclusive broadcast deals.

As the motion received less than a third of delegates’ support (15.3%), it cannot be revisited for three years.

Donegal had voiced their support for the proposal from Dublin club St Joseph’s/O’Connell Boys but there was strong opposition from Cork, Galway, Longford and former GAA president Nickey Brennan who warned of the repercussions of tying the association’s hands in commercial negotiations.

After a Friday night of voting where the minor grade at county level was reduced to U17 and a new U20 All-Ireland development championship replacing the current U21 competition, just one of GAA director general Páraic Duffy’s club fixtures proposals was passed this morning despite all of them receiving simple majority support.

From next year, players not included in a senior county 26-man match-day panel for league and championship games shall be released to their clubs on those weekends.

Croke Park’s plans for a calendar year took a blow when the proposal to bring forward the All-Ireland senior finals by two weeks failed to receive the required two-thirds majority (60.8%). It had been hoped the rescheduling would provide the gateway for all games to be staged in the same 12-month time-frame. Cork, Galway and Kilkenny spoke against the motion.

Also defeated was Duffy’s recommendation to apply extra-time to all championship games apart from All-Ireland and provincial finals, which had been intended to provide clubs with a more reliable fixtures programme. A 57.5% of delegates voted in favour of it.

Despite a strong argument by Connacht secretary John Prenty (“Are we about money or are we about care of our players, our club players?”) and Duffy’s claim that replays outside of finals contributed to just 3.34% of gate receipts between 2010 and ’15, the status quo of extra-time being only applicable to qualifiers remains.

Both the All-Ireland intermediate hurling and junior football championships were retained with Cork strongly opposing both although the hurling competition came close to one per cent of being removed.

Meanwhile, the mark was introduced to Gaelic football, receiving 68% support. A player who cleanly catches the ball on or past the 45 metre line will be entitled to either take a free kick within five seconds or continue with play. If an opposing player does not retreat 10m after the catch the referee will bring the free forward by 13m. The rule is likely to come into operation later this year.

Playing rules chairman Jarlath Burns, whose committee proposed the motion, said Gaelic football was plagued by “an obsession with possession” and the hand-pass was like “Japanese knotweed” in the game. Cork senior administrator Diarmuid O’Donovan stressed a trial was required.

The playing rules committee also succeeded with their proposal to make a general collision rather than a body collision after the ball has been played a black card offence. However, in reaction to the news there were concerns expressed among players on social media that a mistimed shoulder may be interpreted as such.

KEYWORDS: Sport, GAA, GAA Congress.


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