LONDON GAA will not be forced to compete in an All-Ireland ‘B’ Championship next season after the proposal was withdrawn before this year’s annual congress.
Upon evidence of very little support for the motion to confine National League Division 4 teams to a separate competition from the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship, Central Council decided not to proceed with proposing the plan they devised.
Despite shelving the plans, which were lamented by the Gaelic Players Association (GPA) last month, the GAA remain keen to implement a structural overhaul of the football championship and they will now look to establish a sub-committee to come up with alternative suggestions.
Meanwhile, a motion proposing all championship matches to be aired on terrestrial television in Ireland was poorly backed at the meeting in Carlow, with the large majority voting in favour of the GAA prolonging a more lucrative TV subscription deal with the likes of Sky Sports.
Dublin delegate Ken O’Sullivan had proposed the motion, which was backed by fellow heavyweights Kerry and Donegal, arguing that the involvement of subscription channels makes “the older and poorer considerably less likely to be able to watch” games.
But since the motion was defeated by 85 per cent against just 15 per cent in favour of returning all games to terrestrial TV, the failed proposal cannot be raised again for another three years as it claimed less than one third of the vote.
The decision will bring mixed emotions for Exiles who have the desire to watch inter-county games from Ireland in Britain.
On one hand, Sky Sports customers may enjoy championship games during the summer, but Hertfordshire’s Frank Dillon raised a valid point for users of RTÉ’s GAAGO mobile streaming service at congress.
“One Achilles’ heel in England is that we can’t access All-Ireland matches on the service,” he said, referring to GAAGO’S inability to show certain games last year as Sky Sports had paid for exclusive rights to broadcast in Britain.
“I would ask the Árd Stiúrthór to take this into consideration when next negotiating media rights.”
Director General Páraic Duffy indicated that he would take Dillon’s point on board when the time comes to re-negotiate with Sky Sports, or indeed any other broadcaster.
Premier Sports, who have invested in GAA in Britain through sponsorship unlike their counterparts Sky Sports, may yet try to compete for the broadcasting rights.
However, given their financial strength, Sky Sports would appear the more likely to win broadcasting rights later this year.
In other news, motions to scrap championship replays and bring the All-Ireland finals forward by two weeks were defeated.
Also, from 2018, the Under-21 inter-county football championships will become an Under-20 tournament, while the Minor grade will switch from Under-18 to Under-17 from the same year, a move designed to reduce player burnout.
On the field of play, the most significant motion passed was the proposal to introduce the ‘mark’ rule to football after receiving 68 per cent of votes.
The new rule means a player who catches the ball cleanly from a kick-out on or past the 45-metre line nearest the kick-out, without the ball touching the ground, will be granted the option of calling a ‘mark’ – essentially a free-kick – or playing on.