GAA fires back at Virgin Media over 'factual errors' as pay-per-view row rumbles on

GAA fires back at Virgin Media over 'factual errors' as pay-per-view row rumbles on

AS the row over televised coverage of Gaelic Games in Ireland rumbles on, the GAA has hit back at Virgin Media after the broadcaster claimed it was never approached to air matches.

On Tuesday, Virgin Media questioned whether RTÉ paid anything for the current pay-per-view rights package of 38 Championship matches this season.

This evening, the GAA slammed Virgin Media's statement, saying it 'contained several factual errors and misleading comments'.

Meanwhile, the Irish Government has weighed into the matter, with an Oireachtas committee planning to summon representatives from RTÉ and the GAA to address the controversy.

Virgin Media claims

Virgin Media became embroiled in the row on Tuesday after claiming 'the GAA did not approach other broadcasters' after Sky's deal with the association ended last year.

This season's pay-per-view rights package is currently held by GAAGO, a joint venture between the GAA and RTÉ.

However, the deal has been the subject of much conversation, with claims that most high-profile matches are behind the GAAGO paywall rather than being free to air.

"The question must be asked, did RTÉ pay anything for these rights or did they just agree to keep them behind a paywall to drive incremental revenues for both partners in GAAGO, i.e. RTÉ and the GAA?" read the Virgin Media statement.

"Given the multi-million increases in State funding to RTÉ over recent years, RTÉ now has more sports rights than it can show on its channels, with licence payers now being forced to further subsidise RTÉ by paying for GAA sports content through its joint venture with the GAA."

Virgin Media 'afforded every opportunity'

On Wednesday evening, the GAA released a statement, saying Virgin Media had  'called into question the integrity of the GAA Media Rights process'.

The association said it was compelled to release the statement after Virgin Media failed to respond to the GAA's request for the broadcaster to correct its comments made on Tuesday.

In its statement, the GAA claimed that Virgin Media were contacted by the assocation as far back as February 2021 to see if the broadcaster was interested in acquiring rights packages.

This was followed by further meetings and correspondence, claims the GAA, however it says no formal expression of interest was forthcoming from Virgin Media.

The GAA said it contacted the broadcaster again in June 2022 to clarify that it did not wish to make a bid, claiming Virgin Media did not believe the production model on offer suited their needs.

"In short, VMTV [Virgin Media Television] were afforded every opportunity to discuss options, variations to packages and to submit a confidential offer. VMTV choose not to bid," said the GAA.

The GAA added that it rejected a reduced package offer from Sky in favour of GAAGO due to the latter's flexibility on scheduling and ability to show a greater number of games.

Meanwhile, it said its National League package rights went to RTÉ and TG4 as part of its strategy to maximise coverage of games via free-to-air and to support the Irish language.

Despite defending the current set-up, the GAA's statement did commit to reviewing the pay-per-view situation in the wake of recent criticism.

"Recently GAAGO has been the subject of considerable commentary and we will conduct a comprehensive review of its operation at season end," concluded the statement.