The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association has said that there is a high level of misgivings and complaints from its members regarding the decision of the GAA to sell exclusive rights for 14 championship games to Sky.
ICSA rural development chairman Billy Gray said that farmers and rural people in general were concerned that this was the thin end of the wedge and that the GAA needs to be more aware that many people who cannot attend matches, especially in Dublin are still passionately interested in viewing them.
“Farmers are generally very interested in GAA but their work schedule with looking after animals, harvesting silage, hay and crops and milking cows means that it’s not always possible to travel to championship matches. They can’t abandon the farm, get cleaned up and go to the pub so easily either. So the switch to Sky will, in many cases, mean that they don’t see the match.
“We are also aware of many farmers who have few interests outside of the farm but who look forward to following the GAA season throughout the year. We are talking here about people who look forward to watching counties outside of their own.
“We have also had complaints from farm families where children are very young and where a trip to a championship match for the entire family just isn’t practical. In these cases, the ability to see the match at home is important.
“It’s important to note too that many of the people we are referring to would be regular patrons at their local club and county GAA grounds. Some would also be involved in voluntary activities for the local club or training juveniles.
“It’s also worth noting that there are some pockets where Sky reception is not possible in rural regions.
ICSA is concerned that all of these issues need further consideration by GAA headquarters.
Mr Gray concluded by emphasising that ICSA and its farmer members are huge supporters of the GAA.
“ICSA believes that the GAA is a superb organisation that does excellent work in every parish in the country and we recognise that decisions taken by headquarters are always done with the best possible motives. However, we are concerned that Sky makes its decisions on commercial and financial grounds which may not afford sufficient consideration to the grassroots views and which may not be in tune with the huge voluntary ethos that has made the GAA such a great part of Irish society,” he said.