RTÉ fee controversies leave Pat Spillane 'gobsmacked'

RTÉ fee controversies leave Pat Spillane 'gobsmacked'

Former Kerry footballer and RTÉ pundit Pat Spillane has claimed that the stories around the Irish national broadcaster's use of funds have left him "gobsmacked."

The RTÉ secret payment scandal that took place last year involved undisclosed payments to former presenter Ryan Tubridy, which were facilitated by his longtime talent agent Noel Kelly. The undisclosed payments to Tubridy totaled €345,000 between 2017 and 2022, with extra payments bringing his annual earnings over €500,000 each year during that period.

There were also further investments made, which centred around trips to Soho House, the membership club in London, for client meetings, flip-flops, Rugby World Cup tickets in 2019, golf outings, cinema screenings, balloons, and much more that was revealed in the external discovery.

RTÉ Director General Dee Forbes resigned after revelations, prompting investigations by Oireachtas committees. Key players include Ryan Tubridy, Noel Kelly, Dee Forbes, and RTÉ Board Chairperson Siún Ní Raghallaigh.

RTÉ's disclosure to Oireachtas committees revealed that all of its top 100 earners, predominantly in management, had salaries over €116,000, with the Director General receiving €306,000 in total in 2021. Among its 1,800 staff, 119 earned over €100,000 in 2022. Discussions also uncovered voluntary exit schemes paying out over €2.3 million, leading to a review initiated by the new Director General, Kevin Bakhurst.

There has been a lot made about the Irish broadcaster's high-earners during the scandal, and some had to quickly disclose what they were earning.

Spillane, who worked with the broadcaster for 30 years and retired from The Sunday Game in the summer of 2022, claims that he was not one of the members of staff at Montrose who received lavish sums of money for his work.

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"I can assure everybody that being a panellist on The Sunday Game was not a well-paid gig. When I left, my fee was in the bottom ten percent and possibly closer to the bottom five percent," said the Kerry great in his Sunday World column.

"But that was how things worked in RTÉ: the rich got richer, and the poor stayed poor. Although I had some great times there and worked with some wonderful people, it was an odd place."

The former Kerry pundit also revealed that working with the broadcaster was like living in a "parallel universe."

"Entering the Montrose campus was a bit like visiting a parallel universe. I met a lot of people there who seemed cocooned from reality and full of their own importance," he added.

"Departments operated in silos. Light touch regulation was the order of the day, with little oversight.

"At weekends, the sports department operated with a skeleton staff. They were mostly brilliant young people on short-term contracts and poorly paid."

During the height of the scandal, it was revealed that a member of staff had secured the loan of a car for five years.

It was later revealed that GAA pundit Marty Morrissey was the loanee of the car. Morrissey said the incident was an "error in judgement." He also said he was offered the car after hosting a number of events for Renault, which he claims were approved by RTÉ.

Spillane gave his own antidote of a time when a producer at RTÉ asked for an umbrella back and spoke about having to bring his own packed lunches to games despite the money being spent on RTÉ's top earners.

"On the one hand, RTÉ spent €5,000 on flip-flops for a summer party while a producer asked me to return an RTÉ sports umbrella. When the station covered live matches in Croke Park, the Sunday Game panellists might spend eight hours there. There was no food provided. We had to bring our own packed lunches.

"It reminded me of days I spent working on the bog when I was growing up.

"As my mother used to say, it was a case of penny wise, pound foolish. There was one rule for the elite and another for those of us at the bottom of the food chain."