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revolution The GAA needs to embrace new ways of spreading their games -stand by for GAATV

During one of the bleakest periods in our lifetime, these games provided a ray of hope to many

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A packed Croke Park for the drawn 2019 All-Ireland final between Dublin and Kerry. Photo: Sportsfile

A packed Croke Park for the drawn 2019 All-Ireland final between Dublin and Kerry. Photo: Sportsfile

A packed Croke Park for the drawn 2019 All-Ireland final between Dublin and Kerry. Photo: Sportsfile

THE next evolution of the GAA will have nothing to do with football or hurling, but it will have everything to do with how we watch Gaelic games.

During Covid-19 the GAA discovered the joys and hazards of live streaming. At times the pictures were a bit dodgy, and the commentaries were worse.

But during one of the bleakest periods in our lifetime, these games provided a ray of hope to many who were stuck indoors for months

In decades to come sociologists will study how the delayed 2020 All-Ireland hurling and football championships helped to get the nation through that dreadful winter.

Yet as soon as the pandemic ended it was back to normal service. The GAA and County Boards ended their flirtation with steaming and reverting to the traditional models of matches being shown only on recognised TV channels.

As a model it is nearing its sell-by date.

For better or worse the world of sport is moving towards a different model.

Last weekend’s epic World championship fight in Madison Square Garden between Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano was only screened on the DAZA streaming service.

Yesterday Basketball Ireland announced they had secured a five-year agreement with leading live streaming platform, Joymo, which will see 650 games streamed each season and all will be accessible on the Basketball Ireland website.

Basketball Ireland’s National Cup finals will remain free-to-air on TG4 next season.

There are two compelling reasons why the GAA must urgently look at the streaming option.

In the word of Pat Spillane, this year’s condensed championships in football and hurling are the GAA’s version of speed dating. By the end of this month the provincial finals will have been played.

Then there is the GAA’s new project: the Tailteann Cup. The chances are that except for the semi-finals and finals there will be precious few games from the secondary championship shown on television.

Such is the array of games every weekend that the ‘Sunday Game’ on tv would need to be four hours long to do them justice.

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The GAA has already dipped its toe in this market; GAAGO is jointly owned by the Association and RTE. It is a subscription-based sports channel aimed at the international market and at the Irish diaspora around the world.

It features over 100 live and on-demand GAA matches over the year, a library of award-winning GAA documentaries, as well as an archive of classic games from times past. But it is exclusively focussed on the foreign market. We need an Irish equivalent.

The GAA closed the streaming service which had operated during Covid-19 to attract punters back to see games live again. This was understandable but there can be a happy medium.

Every weekend there are thousands of fans who can’t travel to games for a variety of reasons. Many of them would be prepared to pay a subscription to see their county team in action live.

The GAA has consistently failed to market their games to the maximum. Their website is a mess, and it is mostly left to outside agencies like RTE, Sky and the championship sponsors to produce innovative advertising campaigns to market the All-Ireland series.

Watching Eddie Hearn, the boss of boxing promotion company Matchroom in New York last week was an education. Now Hearn is an exceptional salesman – he oozes charm and would literally give interviews from one end of the day to the next.

Just imagine if the Matchroom executives were let loose on the marketing campaign for the All-Ireland series. Trust me they would put bums on seats.

I digress. Pay-per-view gets a hard time in the GAA.

But we have got to face reality – the era of every game being free to air on television is over. And, at any rate, there are not enough television stations in Ireland to show all the games.

The GAA needs to embrace new ways of spreading their games to a wider audience in Ireland.

Stand by for GAATV.

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