Micheál Martin: 'GAA games should be available free-to-air'

Micheál Martin: 'GAA games should be available free-to-air'

The Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Micheál Martin, has said that GAA games on television should be available to view for free.

This comes weeks after a number of fans of Gaelic games were left annoyed that big games in the Munster Hurling Senior Championship were not accessible by traditional terrestrial TV stations like RTE.

The service GAAGO, which is a joint venture with RTE and the GAA, has come under fire for its service.

The platform had the Cork and Tipperary Munster SHC game and the Clare and Limerick match on its platform recently for a subscription fee.

Sky Sports had its own deal with the GAA, but that contract ended, which allowed GAAGO to take the bulk of the games from its English counterpart.

RTE still shows games for free, but this has left many people in GAA circles at home and abroad asking the question "Is GAAGO a viable platform for its core customer base?"

One user on Twitter said, "GAAGo is creating an invisible barrier for the elderly and for people with bad Wifi, which is a lot of people. Show our games on RTE!"

While the likes of Donal Óg Cusack, the former Cork goalkeeper, had his say on the matter.

"Hurling needs oxygen. I have no issue with pay-per-view. That's part of the landscape and it has its role to play. By next weekend, when Clare play Waterford, four of the biggest Munster games will have been on pay-per-view," he said on the Sunday Game.

"You have to ask, 'who is responsible for the promotion of hurling?' Because whoever it is, is not doing a good job of it. The GAA took on the trusteeship of it, and it looks like they're actually shrinking the game, not growing it. You'd have to ask, are RTÉ and the GAA exploiting hurling?"

Minister Martin was asked about the ongoing issue of pay-per-view this week and added that games should be free. "I think so," said the Cork native. "That is a personal view that I have had for a long, long time, and it is the game of hurling that has lost the most in my view because hurling at its best is simply a classic," he said.

"Irrespective of anyone's preference for any particular code of sport, everyone loves to watch a great game of hurling. We have had two classics already now in terms of the Clare-Limerick game and the Cork-Tipp game, and it just seems that a significant audience didn't get access to that, didn't see hurling at its best. Anybody who was in Páirc Uí Chaoimh as I was on Saturday night, it was just one of those occasions - sun-drenched, a beautiful new stadium, and a great game of hurling between Cork and Tipperary."

Minister Martin was also asked about older fans who wanted to watch game "Certainly, our senior citizens need to be able to watch these games, and I think hurling would benefit because if we want to continue to brand hurling as one of the great iconic identifiers of Ireland, one of the great games played at a very high quality, and at a very high level of professionalism in terms of the execution of the hurling, we want more and more people to see it. I think it should be reviewed for the benefit of hurling itself."

This weekend, all four Munster hurling games will be on GAAGO, so it seems the debate will rumble on for quite some time.