Colm Parkinson: It's time the GAA let eir Sport, TV3 and TG4 show championship games 9 months ago

Colm Parkinson: It's time the GAA let eir Sport, TV3 and TG4 show championship games

“We’re going to stick with the existing structure of things. We’re happy with how the arrangement has worked up to now and we’re not looking at changing the nuts and bolts of the arrangement until that comes up for renewal.”

It’s a depressing quote for GAA fans everywhere.

Despite the increase in games this year, director general Tom Ryan said he was happy with the deal last year - when there were obviously fewer games then. It made no sense.

He has since told us he will review the TV deal but you’d wonder why it took a backlash to prompt that - the solution was obvious in April.

But, you see, they didn’t do it the previous year. So why would they do it this year?

Now we see how the decision has badly affected the championship football coverage. Carlow are lighting up the summer, winning against the odds, Laois have won two games in a row for the first time in 11 years and beat Wexford in what might be the game of the season, Longford have made a semi final for the first time in three decades, Fermanagh beat Armagh and beat the bookies while Wicklow overcame Offaly after extra time.

None of these games were available for the public to see on television. The month of May has is almost gone and we've seen one televised game which was ridiculed on RTÉ.

You'd wonder are we trying to turn young people off Gaelic football.

The only coverage we got of the majority of these games were The Sunday Game packages that leave a lot to be desired. We know RTÉ’s GAA coverage is awful - no GAA for nine months of the year, no midweek GAA show during the championship, The Sunday Game focusing on games already shown live a few hours earlier and pundits constantly running the game down is bad enough, but there were 16 points in the first half of the Laois Westmeath game on Saturday night and The Sunday Game report only showed one. Laois turned that game on its head during the last nine or 10 minutes of that first half scoring six points in a row after the introduction of Niall Donogher and we were shown one and not even a mention of how the game turned around.

GAA fans deserve better than that.

Not only will the GAA need to increase their live games they will need to look at how they sell the TV rights, and highlight rights, now that there are so many games every weekend.

Why sell exclusively to RTÉ and Sky and limit the association to just two broadcasters, usually one per weekend? Why can’t TG4, eir Sport or TV3 get into the mix? TG4 are brilliant all year yet are frozen out come championship time. It doesn’t seem fair. Eir Sport's coverage is infinitely better than RTÉ, they have sold the league to us to the point most people agree it’s the best competition in the GAA calendar and they have a midweek show during the league too. Their coverage of club football makes you interested in a Dublin club championship first round in April. They sell the product.

Obviously the GAA wouldn’t be able to demand the same price from RTÉ and Sky but would the decrease not be offset by the price the other broadcasters pay to get into the mix for second and third choice broadcast and highlight rights?

The GAA radio rights are sold this way. When I worked in Newstalk, we had second choice rights to broadcast the games. This meant we’d hear what game RTÉ wanted that weekend and we could take anything else. They would usually choose Munster hurling so we would go for Ulster football to provide another option on the day. It seems much fairer.

We know Newstalk are out of the mix now - I wouldn’t blame the GAA for that either, they always loved Newstalk’s coverage and communicated that on many occasions. They didn’t want to lose Newstalk as a broadcasting partner so Newstalk have some questions to answer on that one.

But now we’re back stuck with RTÉ and last Sunday they showed two live hurling matches on TV whilst, incredibly at the same time on RTÉ Radio, you could listen to the very same two hurling matches.

Then, that night, The Sunday Game starts with hurling for the first hour, showing extended highlights of the very same two games that were already on television and radio that day. No football anywhere until 10.30pm on a Sunday night when we got some woeful packaged highlights. I went to bed annoyed by 11pm.

I’m often asked if we could produce an analysis show online on SportsJOE and the answer is that we would love to. We have a TV quality studio but unfortunately we don’t have highlight rights. The GAA themselves have exclusive online rights for their website.

I asked them once if I could use the condensed highlights they tweet out - after all, they are made public on Twitter at that stage. I said maybe I could find something interesting and build an analysis show around them - slim pickings, I know, but that was the request.

The request was denied.

Another time I asked to use a short clip of John Mullane celebrating winning a free from back in 2004 as he was a guest on our show SportsJOE Live, but that request was denied.

I was told the full game was on the GAA’s website and they wanted to have it exclusively there. It was only a 10-second clip and I told them I would mention on our show that the game in full was on their website and drive traffic to it.

The request was also denied.

You’d feel like pulling your hair out but, of course, it comes back to the same thing... they obviously didn’t do it the previous year!